Former McLean County Board chair Matt Sorensen was sentenced Tuesday to a year in federal prison for his role in a billing-fraud scheme against his State Farm, the final chapter in a stunning fall for one of Central Illinois’ most prominent politicians.
Sorensen was joined by a dozen family and friends inside a federal courtroom in Chicago, where he both asked for leniency and blamed his co-defendant, Navdeep Arora, for conning him into the scheme. U.S. District Judge Ronald A. Guzman ultimately sentenced Sorensen to one year and a day in prison, plus shared restitution with Arora totaling $490,975.
“I’m ashamed of myself. I’ve brought shame on myself, on my family, and on my community,” Sorensen told the judge. “I have more good work to do in this life, and I’d like to get to it.”
That will have to wait until his release from prison. Sorensen will report to the federal Bureau of Prisons on Nov. 27 to begin his sentence. He’ll then be on supervised release (parole) for one year.
Sorensen pleaded guilty last fall to one count of wire fraud in the scheme, after being indicted in January 2016. The charges stunned Bloomington-Normal, in a case that ensnared one of the county’s top Republican leader and its largest employer, State Farm.
Sorensen worked as an internal consultant for State Farm, helping the Bloomington-based insurer decide which outside consultants to use. Arora worked for McKinsey & Company, the largest consulting firm in the world. Prosecutors say they engaged in a fraudulent billing scheme that lasted for at least three years, using a fake consulting company and fraudulent invoices to steal from State Farm and McKinsey. The scheme lasted at least three years and cost State Farm nearly $500,000.
Sorensen's attorney, Stuart Chanen, offered a brief statement after the sentencing:
"We are pleased with the sentence and are grateful that the judge was able to sentence the whole person, taking into account not only his crime but also his many years of service to the community," Chanen said.
Two Sides of Sorensen
Chanen had argued for leniency, seeking a sentence of between probation and one year in prison. Prosecutors had sought at least two years in prison.
In a court filing last week, Chanen rattled off Sorensen’s extensive community service and government work—something that Guzman noted in court Tuesday.
“I’m well aware of the impressive list of good works. Frankly, it is the most impressive list I’ve ever seen,” Guzman said.
But he still declined Chanen’s request to reduce the sentence based on the debatable complexity of the scheme. Sentencing guidelines call for a steeper sentence for a more complex, sophisticated fraud.
So why did he do it? Guzman said he was weighing “two conflicting patterns of conduct”—the multiyear fraud scheme that ran concurrently with his community service. Guzman noted that white-collar crimes like this were “pure-choice crimes,” and that the “longevity and intricacy” of the scheme was the “most disturbing part.”
“I have four different explanations about why your client was involved in this case,” Guzman said at one point to Chanen.
Sorensen told the judge that Arora duped him into a deep friendship that began in the 1990s. Arora lied about many things, Sorensen said, including about Arora’s orphan upbringing, his son with cystic fibrosis, even his birthday (so that they could celebrate their birthdays together).
Sorensen said he was attracted to Arora’s success—and to his “sad and lonely” existence.
“He offered me a mechanism to add to my income, and I took it,” Sorensen said.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Sunil R. Harjani said Sorensen abused his position at State Farm to enrich himself. He said Sorensen’s State Farm emails to and from Arora—provided to the judge ahead of Tuesday’s hearing—showed a “different side” to the onetime community leader.
“He had another side to his character and displayed it during this fraud scheme,” Harjani said.
A representative from State Farm testified during Tuesday’s sentencing hearing, supporting prosecutors’ request for prison time. While McKinsey has already reimbursed State Farm for the nearly $500,000 that was stolen, the representative claimed that State Farm also spent nearly $2 million investigating the scheme. Sorensen and Arora’s scheme also lead to an unknown amount of business for McKinsey that State Farm is not able to fully calculate, the representative said.
“State Farm is pleased to see closure brought to these issues,” spokesperson Missy Dundov said in a statement Tuesday.
Arora, who also pleaded guilty, will be sentenced in October.
“We discovered this matter in 2011, notified the affected client, terminated the employee involved and worked closely with the authorities on their subsequent investigation," a McKinsey spokesperson said in a statement Tuesday. "We demand the highest standards of professional conduct from our colleagues and will always do what is necessary to uphold our values and protect our clients."
Reporter Ryan Denham joined GLT's Sound Ideas on Wednesday to discuss the case:
You can also listen to the full segment from GLT's Sound Ideas:
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