The co-founder of a non-profit organization that built tiny homes for veterans pleaded not guilty yesterday to theft charges.
WGEM in Quincy reports that 63 year old Mark S. Lawrence entered the plea yesterday in Adams County Court. Lawrence has been charged with one count of theft over $100,000 and one count of theft over $10,000 after being indicted on May 18th for allegedly taking money from 2×4’s For Hope between 2019 and September 2020. Lawrence could face anywhere from 3-15 years in prison if he is convicted in the case.
Lawrence, who is free on bond, founded 2×4’s For Hope with his wife Chris in 2015. The two were removed from the organization by the governing board on November 15, 2021 and had a restraining order placed against them. The 2×4’s For Hope governing board has also filed a civil lawsuit against the Lawrences.
Adams County State’s Attorney Gary Farha told Muddy River News that his office learned about the issues when the group when tools donated to 2×4s for Hope by Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation — a Brookfield, Wis., company which develops, manufactures and markets power tools — began appearing at Jacksonville and Galesburg Warehouse Bargains stores. The tools were meant for use in the construction of houses for veterans. Farha said an Illinois State Police investigation discovered Quincy 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 is set to return to court on a status hearing on August 17th, with a potential jury trial coming on September 12th in front of visiting Brown County Judge Jerry J. Hooker.