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Riverside Plaza ex-developer accused of $1M fraud

ALGONQUIN – A former homebuilder who left the multimillion-dollar Riverside Plaza development in Algonquin to ruin in 2008 is charged with defrauding a bank of more than $1 million, federal prosecutors said Tuesday.

Bruce Hawkins, 62, was arrested Monday in Denver, where he now lives, on eight counts of bank fraud. Prosecutors allege a scam of false contractor statements and invoices that defrauded Amcore Bank, the U.S. state’s attorney for Illinois’ Northern District said.

Hawkins, formerly of Algonquin, was released on $25,000 bond and is to appear Tuesday in federal court in Chicago. If convicted, Hawkins could face up to 30 years in prison on each count. Prosecutors also are seeking more than $1 million in restitution from him.

The village of Algonquin in 2006 selected Hawkins, the former owner of Aspen Homebuilders, to construct luxury condos, known as Riverside Plaza, at Routes 31 and 62. The development was meant to anchor commercial activity in Algonquin’s downtown.

But Aspen Homebuilders went bankrupt in 2008, leaving the project unfinished. Lakeland Asset Management now oversees the project and recently was given permission to finish Riverside Plaza, at least temporarily, as luxury apartments in the wake flagging condominium sales.

Hawkins, through Riverside Square LLC, secured a $13.5 million loan from Amcore Bank to finance the project in 2006, prosecutors said.

Between 2007 and 2008, Hawkins allegedly obtained more than $1 million from Amcore Bank by falsely submitting contractor statements and invoices for permits, construction and consulting work, they allege.

In one instance, Hawkins received an additional $25,000 by changing numbers on a subcontractor’s invoice so he could claim $188,700 instead of the rightly owed $163,700, prosecutors allege.

Following the company’s bankruptcy in 2008, Amcore Bank, which now is owned by Harris Bank, stopped funding the construction loan. The hollow shell of 54 owner-occupied condos at the Riverside Plaza consequently sat unfinished for three years.

Lakeland Asset acquired the property in 2011 and quickly drew the ire of village trustees for proposing rental units instead of condos.

After much debate over intentions and the economy, the village authorized Lakeland to finish Riverside Square as large, luxury apartments, with a deadline of 2018 to convert them to condos.

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