News from around Illinois as reported by GateHouse newspapers.


 

Illinois man pleads guilty in Ponzi scheme

DOWNERS GROVE - Downers Grove resident David Hernandez pleaded guilty Thursday in federal court to defrauding more than 250 investors out of more than $6 million.


Hernandez, 49, pleaded guilty to devising and participating in a mail fraud scheme beginning in 2007, according to the plea agreement.


He was the president and founder of NextStep Financial Services Inc., which claimed to offer investment services to the public.


Between July 2007 and May 2009, Hernandez falsely and fraudulently represented to investors and prospective investors that their funds would earn “guaranteed” monthly returns of 10 to 16 percent, according to the plea agreement.


Hernandez will face a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. The court must order restitution to the victims of the offense in an amount determined by the court.


Hernandez remains free on bond until sentencing April 29, according to the U.S. Attorney General's office.


When charges were announced, Hernandez’s wife reported him missing in June. He was found a week later by Normal police June 22 in a hotel where police said he had self-inflicted injuries. He was treated at a local hospital.


Chicago Suburban Life


Decision coming soon on controversial ‘do not knock’ law


MACHESNEY PARK — The village may create a “do not knock” registry for residents who don’t want to be bothered by door-to-door peddlers.


The proposal, which includes several other changes meant to stiffen solicitation laws, goes before the village’s Administration and Finance Committee on Monday.


A proposed ban of door-to-door sales was presented to the committee in November, but officials stepped away from the idea because they feared it imposed on free speech laws and could open the village to lawsuits.


Commercial solicitation has been declared by the U.S. Supreme Court as a form of free speech, a letter sent to the village from one sales company warned.


“Although some residents have had unwanted experiences with door-to-door solicitors, I can report that door-to-door selling of quality products and services does indeed make a contribution to the local community,” Gary Pears, legal counsel for Southwestern Co., wrote in a letter. “Americans are quite social people who do not live behind moats.”


Village administration says the new ordinance balances free speech rights with the safety, privacy and welfare of village residents. The goal is to prevent fraudulent sales activities and protect the privacy of residents who don’t want solicitors at their door.


Village President Tom Strickland started the charge to change soliciting laws after complaints from residents. He even revoked the permit for one burglary-alarm sales business last year for overbearing tactics, he said.


The proposed law sets standards and fines for abusive sales practices, such as threatening or blocking the passage of a person solicited.


Violators of soliciting laws could be fined up to $300.


Register Star


Peoria County recorder of deeds dies


PEORIA — County Recorder of Deeds Brad E. Horton died Friday morning in surgery at Methodist Medical Center. He was 59.


Horton was working in his office at the Peoria County Courthouse when he collapsed about 2:30 p.m. Thursday, Peoria County Coroner Johnna Ingersoll said. After being taken to Methodist, Horton was diagnosed with abdominal aortic aneurysms, she said.


“He was taken into surgery about 6 p.m. (Thursday) and he died in surgery at 1:35 a.m. (Friday),” Ingersoll said.


Ingersoll said Horton’s wife indicated he had been experiencing what seemed like flu-like symptoms for nearly a week but was apparently unaware of the more severe health issue.


No autopsy will be performed, and the official cause of death is the aneurysms, Ingersoll said.


Journal Star


Hobbs plant shutdown expected by end of year


SPRINGFIELD - Honeywell Hobbs expects to complete the phase-out of its Springfield manufacturing plant and approximately 120 jobs by the end of the year, ending a more than 70-year run in the city.


A second plant in Spring Valley, about 60 miles northeast of Peoria, will be shut down by mid-year. Both operations are moving to Juarez, Mexico.


“We’re in the preparation phase now. There’s been no action in terms of the transition yet,” said Mark Hamel, spokesman for parent company Honeywell International Corp., based in Morris Town, N.J.


Honeywell announced last fall it would close the Springfield and Spring Valley plants once severance terms were negotiated with union workers. The plant in Springfield produces controls, switches, lighting systems, battery indicators and meters for the transportation industry.


Hamel said the negotiations have been completed, and the first round of layoffs in Springfield could come this spring. Some layoffs already have begun in Spring Valley, which had a workforce of about 65 at the time of the original announcement.


State Journal-Register