Pere Marquette Hotel developers sentenced to a combined five and half years in prison for mail fraud, money laundering and bankruptcy charges


Date: April 16, 2024


Peoria, IL — Pere Marquette Hotel developers Gary E. Matthews and Monte J. Brannan were sentenced yesterday in federal court. Matthews of East Peoria, Illinois, has been sentenced to 40 months in the Bureau of Prisons. Brannan of Peoria, Illinois, was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment.

At the sentencing hearing before U.S. District Chief Judge Sara Darrow, the Government presented evidence that in 2008, Matthews created GEM Hospitality, LLC for the purpose of owning and developing a premiere hotel complex in downtown Peoria, Illinois. This project included renovating the existing Pere Marquette Hotel, as well as developing a new Marriott Courtyard Hotel. Immediately upon its inception, 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.

Brannan joined Matthews as a partner in the project in July 2011, and the Government presented evidence that once both hotels were opened, he and Matthews conspired to steal funds from the investors and lenders to the project and to launder their ill-gotten funds.

After a lengthy hearing, Matthews was found individually responsible for stealing more than $3,400,000 from more than thirty individual investors. Matthews and Brannan were found jointly responsible for stealing an additional $4,700,000 from the hotel projects lenders and investors.

Also at the hearing, Judge Darrow rejected Matthews and Brannan’s arguments that their actions were simply a contract dispute. In doing so, Judge Darrow noted that at the heart of Matthews and Brannan actions was their repeated decisions to lie and steal from others and that what they did was “theft.” She went on to note that they had hurt the project’s investors and lenders, and the Peoria community through their actions.

Brannan pleaded guilty mid-trial to the 3 bankruptcy charges, but both Matthews and Brannan were tried on the remaining 18 counts in the 11-day trial. Matthews was found guilty of all 5 of the mail fraud counts and 12 of the 13 money laundering charges. Brannan was found guilty of all 5 of the mail fraud counts and all 13 money laundering charges.

Both Matthews and Brannan were released after their sentencing but were given dates to report to the Bureau of Prisons to begin serving their sentences. Their current bonds remain in full force and effect.

“The prosecution and conviction of Matthews and Brannan should serve as a reminder to those who are in positions of trust and authority, that they need to honor that trust.” said United States Attorney Gregory K. Harris. “The large-scale fraud committed in this case caused immense harm to individuals, businesses, and the City of Peoria. We will continue to seek justice and prosecute to the fullest those who take advantage of others for their own personal gain.”

"Gary Matthews and Monte Brannan presented a façade of upstanding businessmen, but in reality, they scammed lenders, creditors, and their community,” said Justin Campbell, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation (CI), Chicago Field Office. “Despite the complexity of their deceitful business dealings, CI and its fellow law enforcement partners were successful in bringing these two fraudsters to justice.”

“The U.S. Postal Inspection Service, along with its law enforcement partners, will aggressively investigate all schemes in which the U.S. Mail is used to victimize individuals and businesses and deprive them of their hard-earned money. These sentences are a clear indication that our investigative efforts will not cease until those responsible for such criminal acts are brought to justice,” said Ruth M. Mendonça, Inspector in Charge of the Chicago Division of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

“Today’s sentence shows that abusive and fraudulent conduct will not be tolerated, and the bankruptcy system and its integrity will be protected through the commitment of U.S. Attorney Harris and our law enforcement partners,” said U.S. Trustee Nancy J. Gargula for Region 10. The United States Trustee Program is the component of the Justice Department that protects the integrity of the bankruptcy system by overseeing case administration and litigating to enforce the bankruptcy laws. Region 10, encompassing the districts of Indiana and Central and Southern Illinois, is headquartered in Indianapolis with additional offices in Peoria, IL and South Bend, IN.

The case investigation was conducted by the United States Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorneys Douglas F. McMeyer, Ronald L. Hanna, and William J. Lynch represented the government at trial. The case was presented to a federal grand jury for indictment by Criminal Chief Darilynn J. Knauss.

CI is the criminal investigative arm of the IRS, responsible for conducting financial crime investigations, including tax fraud, narcotics trafficking, money-laundering, public corruption, healthcare fraud, identity theft and more. CI special agents are the only federal law enforcement agents with investigative jurisdiction over violations of the Internal Revenue Code, obtaining a more than a 90 percent federal conviction rate. The agency has 20 field offices located across the U.S. and 12 attaché posts abroad.