2x4s For Hope Founder Expected to Plea Guilty to Theft From the Non-Profit in June

By Benjamin Cox on May 10, 2024 at 9:04am

An Adams County man who founded a non-profit group that builds homes for veterans and was subsequently charged for stealing from that group is expected to plea guilty.

Muddy River News reports that 65-year old Mark Lawrence of Melrose has tentatively agreed to a plea deal on both Class 1 felony theft between $100,000 and $500,000 and Class 2 felony theft between $10,000 and $100,000.

Lawrence faces between 3 to 15 years in prison, a fine of up to $25,000, and court-ordered restitution. Both offenses are probation eligible.

Lawrence is accused of taking construction equipment that was donated to the tiny home building charity and selling it for personal gain as well as stealing the charity’s funds between 2019 and May 2022.

Lawrence and his wife, Chris Lawrence, were the founders of 2x4s for Hope, a local charity which builds homes for homeless and at-risk veterans. Both were removed by the non-profit’s board in a vote in November 2021.

The 2x4s for Hope board also filed a civil suit and a temporary restraining order over the group’s finances. The Lawrences attempted to countersue the board, but the effort was dropped in September 2023.

Adams County authorities learned of the theft after tools donated by Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation began appearing at Jacksonville and Galesburg Warehouse Bargains stores. The tools were donated so that 2x4s for Hope could continue building homes for veterans.

Adams County States Attorney Gary Farha told Muddy River News that an Illinois State Police investigation discovered Warehouse Bargains did not make out checks to 2×4s for Hope but to Mark Lawrence, who allegedly did not transfer the funds into the 2x4s for Hope accounts. Farha also said 2×4s for Hope allegedly wrote multiple checks for tens of thousands of dollars to Lawrence Construction, a business owned by Mark Lawrence that ceased operations during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Lawrence’s next court appearance is scheduled for June 5th where the plea is set to be made official.