Insurance Fraud NEWS
Arson at Illinois gay bar likely a fake hate crime by owner
November 02, 2013, Oak Park, IL
The former owner of an Oak Park gay nightclub destroyed in a fire last year was arrested Friday night and charged with two counts of arson and one count of insurance fraud.
Frank Elliott, 26, of Bartlett, operated the Velvet Rope Ultra Lounge at 728 Lake St. when it burned in an early morning fire June 3, 2012. He was arrested Friday at another bar he operates in Chicago.
Prosecutors said Elliott and a friend went to a liquor store and bought several bottles of Everclear alcohol. The two doused the bar with the alcohol and spray-painted gay slurs on the walls before igniting the bar, prosecutors said. Elliott then filed a $150,000 insurance claim.
Shortly after the fire, advocates for the gay community raised concerns over speculation that the bar and restaurant was targeted for being a well-established gay club. At the same time, Elliott told the Tribune he thought the blaze was suspicious because derogatory messages were scrawled on the wall inside the burned-out club.
Cook County court documents show officers received a tip about Elliott’s alleged involvement from a man they picked up on a DUI charge. After the man recorded meetings and phone conversations with Elliott, officers “determined that Elliott was involved in planning, committing and the eventual intended insurance benefits of this incident,” court documents show.
Cook County Judge Israel Desierto set bail at $20,000, which Elliott’s attorney, Richard Blass, said would be posted Saturday. Elliott is scheduled to appear in court Monday. If convicted, he could face up to seven years in prison for each count of arson and 15 years for insurance fraud.
Blass said the counts against Elliott are “serious charges, but it doesn't seem right.”
“There may have been an arson, but my client wasn't involved,” Blass said.
Source: Chicago Tribube