Adam Lopez Springfield sentenced to 11 years in prison on theft charge
Former School District 186 board of education president and Country Financial agent Adam Lopez of Springfield was sentenced to 11 years in prison by Associate Judge Rudolph Braud in Sangamon County court Tuesday.
The 38-year-old Lopez had faced up to 30 years in the Illinois Department of Corrections, though with no past criminal history, prosecutors asked the judge for a sentence of 15 years.
Lopez, in a Sangamon County Jail issued uniform, stared straight ahead when Braud pronounced the sentence, capping the nearly two-hour hearing.
Lopez will serve the sentence at 50% and will get credit for 965 days he served in the county jail.
Upon completion of the sentence, Lopez will have to complete three years of mandatory supervised release.
Lopez pleaded guilty to the most serious theft charge on May 3.
Under an agreement with the state’s attorney’s office, three counts of financial exploitation of the elderly and a count of financial exploitation of a person with disabilities against Lopez were dismissed.
Also dismissed were the two counts of theft involving the fellow jail inmate.
Lopez would have served any of those charges concurrently which would not have resulted in extra prison time.
Lopez, in a court statement and at times breaking down emotionally, apologized to those he defrauded over $1.5 million from April 2014 to September 2018. That included his maternal aunt and uncle, Beverly and Robert Lenhart, who were present Tuesday.
State’s attorney Dan Wright earlier in the proceeding read a victim impact statement from the couple who admitted to having “nightmares” when their financial situation unraveled.
Lopez apologized to his parents, Mike and Gail Lopez, who testified on his behalf, to his former wife, Christine, and his three daughters and to the Sangamon County taxpayers “for all of the time and money spent on this case.”
Included in a court filing were over 20 letters of support for Lopez from members of the community, including Lopez’s former pastor at Cherry Hills Church, the Rev. Patrick McKenna, and Christine Lopez.
Wright said the breadth of Adam Lopez’s fraud was “staggering.”
“Put simply,” Wright said, “(Lopez) is a financial predator who lured his victims into a relationship of trust and confidence premised upon the reputation of his employer, prior personal and family relationships and a talent for manipulation and deceit.”
Wright added that the nature and scope of his crime “heavily outweighed the lack of a criminal record.”
In a letter submitted by the Lenharts read in court by Wright, the Lenharts said they “trusted (Lopez) completely. We did not believe he would do this to us.”
Because of the Lenharts’ financial situation, they had to stop paying a granddaughter’s college tuition, according to the letter, and had to rely on their children to pay some of their monthly bills.
Wright also read victim impact letters from Mary Chance, who wrote the court on the behalf of her son, Justin Chance, and Judy Allen.
Both were defrauded by Lopez.
Wright said Lopez had not learned his lesson because as an inmate in the Sangamon County Jail, Lopez was charged with another theft count.
Kelly Urbas, a retired detective with the Springfield Police Department, testified for the state about Lopez promised an inmate that he could double his money.
Lopez never followed through, Urbas said.
Mike Lopez, Adam Lopez’s father and the president of the village of Jerome, told the court that he had a “very tight, very honest and congenial” relationship with his son.
“I’m here to support my son,” Lopez said. “I believe he’s a better person moving forward.”
Mike Lopez patted his son on the back twice as he returned to his seat from the witness stand.
Gail Lopez spoke about her son’s academic successes and his involvement in organizations like Big Brothers Big Sisters and his fraternity, Phi Beta Sigma.
Lopez said her son helped his cousins get jobs “when they couldn’t get jobs. Adam doesn’t like people to see the soft side of him, but he loves to help people.”
Like her husband, Gail Lopez expressed “total shock” about his arrest and adding she knew nothing about the financial exploits.
In court, Lopez’s attorney Daniel Noll said Lopez’s “fall from grace has drawn the attention of the media and the community.”
Noll said that Lopez had already been harshly punished in losing his reputation and his wife.
“His family is torn apart, he’s lost his political career. He’s lost everything,” Noll said. “There’s no order from the court that would change any of that.”
It was not immediately apparent if Lopez planned to appeal his sentence.
Noll said after sentencing that “it wasn’t a fun day for the Lopez family or any of the parties involved in this.”
“I think Adam is truly remorseful for the conduct that brought him in front of the judge today,” Noll added. “He’s taken responsibility for his actions. He’s (pleaded) guilty and he was sentenced today. He apologized numerous times in court today and I take him at his word for it.”
Lopez must repay $1,533,778.97 to Country Financial, which has reimbursed Lopez’s former clients.
Lopez agreed to forfeiture of seized sports memorabilia and a $17,000 fishing boat he purchased in August 2018. The sales proceeds of those items will be applied toward restitution to Country Financial.
Lopez served two terms on the school board, running unopposed in Subdistrict 2 in 2013 and 2015. He succeeded Mike Zimmers as board president in 2016 and served in that capacity for two years. Zimmers succeeded him as president in 2018 and Lopez became vice president.
Lopez’s seat went unfilled until Micah Miller defeated Sean Dickerson in an April 2019 election.
A Southeast High School and University of Illinois Springfield graduate, Lopez’s Country Financial office was the sponsor of a boys high school basketball tournament that bore his name for several years.
Lopez was fired from the company in September 2018 after a customer complaint, the company said. More than two months later, Lopez was indicted by a grand jury and arrested by U.S. marshals in Springfield.
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, [email protected], twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.