By DON O'BRIEN
Herald-Whig Staff Writer
A Quincy man was given probation -- and a wake-up call by the judge -- Friday on an aggravated home repair fraud charge.
Michael Dion Rupert, 41, was sentenced to 30 months of probation by Judge Bob Hardwick and a 180-day sentence in the Adams County Jail. Hardwick stayed all but 10 days of Rupert's jail sentence and immediately sent him to the Adams County Jail.
"It's apparent that you need someone to knock you on the head to wake you up," Hardwick told Rupert near the end of the 75-minute hearing. "You are getting probation for a Class 2 felony, which means I could send you to jail for between three and seven years, and have two years of mandatory supervised release. If you're not going to do what you have to do, we will send you to prison, and you will get chewed up in prison."
Rupert was found guilty by a jury in October of defrauding a Quincy couple out of $2,000. Operating as Rupert Construction, Rupert entered into a contract with the couple to work on their porch in the 1200 block of North Eighth on Aug. 22, 2011. The parties agreed that the work would cost $3,800, with Rupert taking a $2,000 down payment. Rupert never returned to do the work and was arrested Nov. 22, 2011. The charge was aggravated because the couple are considered elderly, which is older than 60 by Illinois state law.
Rupert had two other home repair fraud cases pending when he was arrested in this case. The other two cases were eventually dismissed after he made restitution.
He was originally supposed to be sentenced in November but had the hearing postponed because he was in a residential treatment center to deal with an alcohol problem. Rupert told Hardwick that he was trying to get his life back together after it had been wrecked by his drinking. He said he had been sober for 65 days and he had completed a successful 22-day stay in the residential program at Recovery Resources.
After reading the pre-sentence investigation report, Hardwick wasn't buying Rupert's story. The report, Hardwick said, claimed that Rupert "didn't have a good attitude" during his residential treatment stay. He wondered why Rupert hadn't made calls he needed to make as part of his follow-up to that residential treatment.
"You say you would do anything to get your family back, but I don't get a warm, fuzzy feeling you're doing that," Hardwick said. "You're giving lip service to your alcohol problem."
First Assistant State's Attorney Gary Farha asked that Rupert receive some jail time as part of probation, which the state's attorney's office recommended.
"He has caused havoc within our community with his actions," Farha said. "He hasn't admitted that he's a fraud and a cheat when it comes to his business activities."
Rupert's attorney, Public Defender Brett Jansen, asked that Rupert serve no jail time so that he could continue his rehabilitation, work on continuing to mend fences with his family and work to pay restitution to the victims.
Rupert turned and apologized to the victims just before Hardwick made his decision.
"I am sorry to have put you in this situation," Rupert told them.
Hardwick said some jail time was necessary as a deterrent for Rupert and others who might try to do similar things.
Rupert was given TASC probation, a form of probation made available to first-time felons. If Rupert completes all the terms of the probation, the felony conviction will come off his record. He must make full restitution of $2,000 to the victims. He is not allowed to drink or enter any bars or taverns. He is not allowed to work as an independent contractor and may not bid for any jobs. He is only allowed to work as an hourly employee for someone else.
Rupert testified that he spent at least eight hours on the porch project and would like to be compensated at a rate of $25 an hour. Hardwick denied that request.
"It's arrogant to ask for $200 in restitution for the work you said you did," Hardwick said. "You didn't do a damn thing."
Rupert had been free on bond until Friday. He posted 10 percent of a $5,000 bond on Nov. 23, 2011.