URBANA — Two men have been arrested for aggravated home repair fraud after they convinced a 93-year-old Urbana man to give them $4,000 for sealing his asphalt driveway.
Dennis Prairie, 48, who listed an address in Marseilles, Ill., and Gerald Prairie, 70, who listed an address in Spring Hill, Fla., both pleaded innocent on Thursday to felony aggravated home repair fraud.
Judge Richard Klaus set their next court appearance for Nov. 6.
According to a police report, a 93-year-old man was sitting on his front porch in the 1200 block of Eastern Drive, Urbana, on Aug. 27 when a truck stopped there.
Dennis and Gerald Prairie and a third man, who hasn't been identified, got out of the truck and approached the resident about sealing his asphalt driveway. After the men said the materials would cost about $80, the resident agreed to have the work done.
Police said the three man sprayed something on the driveway and did a minor amount of concrete work.
After 2 1/2 to 3 hours, they were finished and quoted the resident $4,000 for the finished work. They requested cash and followed the man to his bank to withdraw the money.
The resident first withdrew $500 and attempted to pay that amount. But the men insisted he give them $4,000, so the resident withdrew the other $3,500 and paid them.
The men told the resident that they would return the following day with a warranty for the seal coating, but they never returned.
Urbana police said they believe the two men are also responsible for at least five other known driveway jobs in Champaign County within the past six weeks. In some of these incidents they allegedly did skim coating with concrete, only put one-sixteenth of an inch of materials on the driveways and offered 25-year warranties on the work.
After Urbana provided a description of the men to other police departments, they learned an Illinois State Police investigator was also investigating the men in connection with an incident near Loda near the end of August.
Urbana police later identified other possible victims who had filed complaints with the Illinois attorney general's office.
Police found Dennis and Gerald Prairie at the Magnuson Hotel in Rantoul at 8 a.m. Wednesday and arrested them.
Urbana police continue to look for other people who may have been working with Dennis and Gerald Prairie.
Other people have had similar experiences with home repair incidents are asked to call their local police department.