GOP Candidate Nailed for Using Drug Rehab Programs to Steal Benefit Payments from Addicted Teens

"I have a clean record,” wrote Illinois pastor John Elleson, who’s running for Congress in the Ninth District.

The reality is that court records show the pastor pleaded “no contest” to second-degree theft that scored him 150 hours of community service in 2003, the Chicago Tribune reported. He also had to return the $49,000 in benefit payments he stole while in Hawaii.

According to prosecutors, Elleson, along with wife Suzanne, both pleaded “no contest” to lying about feeding teenagers attending a drug addiction rehab that the couple ran.

The Tribune cited a Honolulu Star-Bulletin report that an investigation into the Ellesons began when a teen in the rehab outed the couple for demanding the teen apply for tax payer-funded benefit payments. They then demanded the teens turn the money over to them or face eviction from the program.

Pastor Elleson was then fired for his “contentious and noncooperative spirit” and his “assumption of dictatorial authority over an assembly.” He then got sued by the church for using the “Teen Challenge” brand.

The judge presiding over the case found he had “willfully engaged in . . . deceptive trade practices,” and demanded the couple pay legal fees for the church.

In 2010, police were forced to respond multiple times when the Bethel Pentecostal Church of God and Elleson’s Lakewood Chapel were fighting over a wall cutting their shared chapel in half. Half of Lakewood was sold to the Pentecostal church, however, Elleson would allegedly cut off power or the PA system while the Pentecostal church was having services. Elleson was accused of also removing microphones during services and playing loud music and projections onto the screen during the other church’s service.

Elleson lost the lawsuit brought by the Pentecostal church and was ordered to pay them $257,600 along with legal fees.

To make matters worse, Elleson has already come under fire for using Houston televangelist Joel Osteen in a campaign ad without his permission. Osteen had previously done a video the Ellesons could use to promote their own church.

Elleson was also caught falsely implying the Chicago Tribune endorsed his campaign over Democratic opponent Rep. Jan Schakowsky. He’s also falsely claimed he was endorsed by an independent voters group. He ultimately removed the text from his campaign website.

In an email exchange with Inc, Elleson wouldn’t answer any questions but called the Hawaii lawsuit “an unfortunate time in our lives.”

He went on to say he has nothing to hide, nor is he aware of a 1998 “samage conviction” from a Cook County case where he plead guilty to a misdemeanor. He claimed that he has a clean record.

Enjoy this piece?

… then let us make a small request. AlterNet’s journalists work tirelessly to counter the traditional corporate media narrative. We’re here seven days a week, 365 days a year. And we’re proud to say that we’ve been bringing you the real, unfiltered news for 20 years—longer than any other progressive news site on the Internet.

It’s through the generosity of our supporters that we’re able to share with you all the underreported news you need to know. Independent journalism is increasingly imperiled; ads alone can’t pay our bills. AlterNet counts on readers like you to support our coverage. Did you enjoy content from David Cay Johnston, Common Dreams, Raw Story and Robert Reich? Opinion from Salon and Jim Hightower? Analysis by The Conversation? Then join the hundreds of readers who have supported AlterNet this year.

Every reader contribution, whatever the amount, makes a tremendous difference. Help ensure AlterNet remains independent long into the future. Support progressive journalism with a one-time contribution to AlterNet, or click here to become a subscriber. Thank you. Click here to donate by check.

alternet logo

Tough Times

Demand honest news. Help support AlterNet and our mission to keep you informed during this crisis.