A Lake in the Hills man preparing to go to prison for 19 months on a 2018 felony conviction for stealing little more than $800,000 from church friends, pleaded not guilty Wednesday to additional charges of theft and fraud in a similar case pending in McHenry County.
Carlos Meza, 55, had first been arraigned in 2016 on three McHenry County felony charges.
At that arraignment, he entered a not guilty plea to continuing financial crimes enterprise, theft by unauthorized control of more than $10,000 and financial institution fraud, according to lawyers and court documents.
On Wednesday, he was “re-arraigned” and pleaded not guilty to an additional 15 charges in the case including continuing financial crime enterprise, theft between $10,000 and $100,000, defrauding a financial institution between $500 and $10,000 and forgery.
Assistant Attorney General Regina Jeon and two of his alleged victims said Meza stole their money under the guise of helping save their homes from foreclosure or making investments on their behalf.
In 2014, Meza also was convicted of misdemeanor theft in Cook County, Jeon said.
The wire fraud conviction in felony court is linked to his current case. A jury trial was set in this case for Sept. 30 but with the new charges it likely will occur next year. He is set for status in McHenry County on Oct. 23.
He is ordered to surrender to the United States Bureau of Prisons at 2 p.m. on Thursday, Oct. 31, according to documents filed at the U.S. Northern District Court of Illinois and Joshua Kutnick his defense attorney in the federal case.
Two of his alleged victims in the McHenry County case said they have known Meza since 2000 when they all met at Church of Jesus Christ Latter Day Saints in Crystal Lake. They said their families had all been close, vacationed and had parties together throughout the years.
The women allege Meza had stolen a combined total of more than $1 million from at least 12 church members he befriended at the church.
Meza allegedly had his friends write checks out to other people, then forged signatures and deposited those checks into accounts which he owned at his bank, according to the indictment. The indictment alleges that he did this on three or more occasions between 2013 and 2014.