Libertyville man pleads guilty to fleecing investors
Forrest David Laidley - the builder of a prominent Lincolnshire mall and former board member of a publicly traded company - has admitted fleecing investors and financial institutions.
Although federal prosecutors say Laidley fraudulently obtained more than $10 million, his attorney has filed documents contending the amount is overstated. His defense attorney, Kenneth Cunniff, couldn't be reached for comment Friday.
Laidley, 65, an attorney from Libertyville, is scheduled for sentencing June 29 in federal court in Chicago. He entered a blind guilty plea Thursday to one count each of mail and bank fraud before U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning.
Prosecutors said Laidley faces a maximum of 30 years in prison on each count and a $1 million fine.
When contacted Friday. Laidley said he is doing well, but declined to comment on his plea.
Court documents say Laidley sold limited partnerships and short-term, high-interest guaranteed promissory notes, sometimes called bridge loans, to more than 100 investors from 1999 to 2004.
Laidley attracted a select group of investors that included Dennis Marx, adviser to wealthy families at JMG Financial Group Ltd. in Oak Brook, and attorney Bernard Rinella, whose parents started Illinois' oldest family law firm in 1932.
Prosecutors said Laidley, individually and through Forrest Properties Inc., offered returns of 10 percent to 40 percent to investors who provided him with cash toward purported retail and office projects in Lincolnshire, Round Lake and Glenview.
Laidley made "Ponzi-type" payments to investors, according to prosecutors. He's accused of using the $10 million for personal expenses and on unrelated real-estate projects.
Court documents also state Laidley used a forged document to fraudulently provide additional collateral Northside Community Bank had requested for his outstanding $1.5 million loan in July 2001.
Investor Robert McDonald of Libertyville said it's no coincidence documents filed by federal prosecutors state Laidley stopped raising money for projects in 2004. That's when the Daily Herald launched a series of stories on civil lawsuits filed over Laidley's investment opportunities.
About 20 civil lawsuits were filed in Lake, Cook and DuPage counties from 1999 to 2004, contending Laidley was not returning millions of dollars invested with him. In interviews at the time, Laidley said he had a plan to make all his investors whole.
McDonald started pressing the issue about Laidley with Lake County authorities after the stories appeared six years ago. The FBI eventually looked into Laidley, which led to his indictment in July.
"His program probably crashed after (the Daily Herald) did the initial article," said McDonald, a mortgage company owner who hired Laidley for legal work.
McDonald provided $100,000 to Laidley so a real estate project could get started, with the promise of 10 percent interest. His principal was returned, but he never received the daily compounded interest through a lawsuit that Laidley never contested.
Prosecutors said a minimum of 50 victims never received payments from Laidley. Other investors received "Ponzi-type" payments from Laidley from the pool of $10 million or so he raised, court papers state.
In documents filed by prosecutors in connection with Laidley's guilty plea, it's stated he obtained $4.6 million from investors in Glenview's Glen Gateway Shoppes. It's alleged Laidley sold the Glen Gateway partnership without the investors' knowledge and used the money for unrelated projects and personal expenses, including $17,000 on a Wisconsin summer home mortgage.
Laidley graduated from Yale University in 1966. He played linebacker on Yale's football team and belonged to the prestigious Class of '66 Skull and Bones Society, which included Democratic U.S. Sen. John Kerry.
Forrest Properties headed development of Lincolnshire's upscale Village Green shopping, restaurant and office plaza at Route 22 and Milwaukee Avenue. Laidley handled real estate transactions for the Archdiocese of Chicago from 1988 to 1996.
Laidley served on the board of directors at publicly traded Vasco Data Security International Inc. in Oakbrook Terrace, Libertyville's Harris Bank branch and Carmel Catholic High School in Mundelein.
"The guy (Laidley) had the pedigree," McDonald said. "That's why he was able to raise the money."
Records show Laidley remains authorized to practice law in Illinois. The state granted him a 2010 law license.