Pere Marquette Hotel developers sentenced to prison

By Bill Dwyer for Chronicle Media

Disgraced Pere Marquette Hotel developers Gary E. Matthews and Monte J. Brannan were jointly charged with five counts of mail fraud and 13 counts of money laundering.

Disgraced Pere Marquette Hotel developers Gary E. Matthews and Monte J. Brannan will serve prison time for what prosecutors say was a sophisticated fraud scheme that cost investors millions of dollars.  

After a 7½-hour hearing Monday, April 15, Judge Sara Darrow sentenced Matthews, 81, of East Peoria, to 40 months and ordered him to pay $8.2 million in restitution to investors. Brannan, 72, of Peoria, was sentenced to 24 months and ordered to repay $4.7 million.  

Both men had faced between 87 and 135 months in prison under federal sentencing guidelines. However, defense attorneys asked for probation or home confinement, arguing that the pair were at low risk of recidivism, and that a years-long sentence effectively constituted a life sentence at their ages. 

Matthews and Brannan were convicted in November of fraudulently diverting funds from the development of the Pere Marquette Hotel to a corporation controlled by them. 

Immediately upon the project’s inception, prosecutors said, “Matthews began defrauding his investors, sweeping their investments into his existing business accounts, and using their funds for several purposes unrelated to the Pere Marquette project.” 

The two men were jointly charged with five counts of mail fraud and 13 counts of money laundering. Brannan was also charged, individually, with three counts related to bankruptcy fraud committed in his personal bankruptcy case.  

Matthews was found guilty on all mail fraud charges and 12 of the 13 money laundering counts. Brannan, who earlier in the trial had pleaded guilty to several bankruptcy fraud counts, was convicted on all 18 remaining counts. 

While Matthews and Brannan insisted that they were not responsible for most investor losses, Darrow found them responsible for millions of dollars in losses.  

In briefs, attorneys for the two men contended that the government “did not prove, nor can it, that the Defendant’s (sic) misappropriated $4.7 million.” 

Matthews and Brannan sought to paint their actions as missteps triggered by desperation over a floundering multi-million project. They contended that the conduct alleged by prosecutors was “not as egregious as the government has represented it to be, and instead should have stayed in the civil courtrooms for the parties to hash out.” 

“The evidence, at best, demonstrates that as the ship was sinking, Matthews was rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic in hopes that help would arrive …” his attorney William Breedlove said. 

He insisted that Matthews was a victim who, “instead of retiring following his 23rd successful project, (was) everyone’s scapegoat.”  

Brannan’s attorney, Peter J. Lynch, said that his client “lost nearly everything in the pursuit of renovating the Pere Marquette Hotel,” including an initial $1 million investment, “along with any semblance of the life he one lived.” 

“He has lost his home and lives extremely modestly on his Social Security income,” Lynch wrote.  

Prosecutors said the actions of the two men were wholly intentional, saying in a press release that Matthews’ and Brannan’s “repeated decisions to lie and steal from others” was “at the heart of” their scheme.  

U.S. Attorney Gregory K. Harris said that “The large-scale fraud committed in this case caused immense harm to individuals, businesses, and the City of Peoria.” 

“Gary Matthews and Monte Brannan presented a facade of upstanding businessmen, but in reality, they scammed lenders, creditors, and their community,” said Justin Campbell, special agent in charge at the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Chicago Field Office. 

“Despite the complexity of their deceitful business dealings, IRS Criminal Investigation and its fellow law enforcement partners were successful in bringing these two fraudsters to justice,” Campbell said.