ANDERSON – For the past 10 years, 25-year-old Chicago native Elliot J. Blunt admitted, he has been involved in illegal activity, from the sale and use of drugs to participating in a scheme to use stolen credit cards to take about $60,000 from two Indiana casinos.
“I am smarter than this. No more dumb decisions … If I have to be broke not to do dumb stuff, then I have to be broke,” the high school graduate declared Monday after Madison Circuit Court 3 Judge Thomas Newman sentenced Blunt to eight years’ probation for his role in the casino fraud.
That in spite of Blunt’s admission that he recently was placed on two years’ probation for a November 2014 battery charge and an arrest in December in Cook County, Illinois, for possession of a controlled substance.
Blunt, one of five suspects in the fraud, pleaded guilty under an agreement filed Feb. 11 to Class C felony fraud on a financial institution, Class C felony corrupt business influence, Class D felony fraud and Class D felony theft.
The carpenter’s assistant admitted using a credit card belonging to a 75-year-old Rhode Island woman to obtain a cash advance of about $4,500 on April 3, 2014, at Hoosier Park Racing & Casino. He told the court he was paid $1,500.
Blunt, who said he is studying arts at Elgin Community College in Illinois and plans to earn a commercial driver’s license so he can be a trucker, said he understands Newman gave him a rare deal.
“I understand completely, and I appreciate so much what the judge did today,” he said.
Blunt told the court he came from a hardscrabble life where children had no fathers, and half the mothers had no jobs. Lured by the desire to have the same fancy clothes and shoes he saw his friends wearing, he descended into a life of crime.
“The easy money, it was hard to turn away from,” he said. “First thing I did was jump aboard. I started selling weed with some of my friends.”
Blunt’s inspiration for wanting to turn around his life? His 3-month-old son.
“I should have been planning a better life before my son was born. My mind was just scrambled, and I wasn’t thinking straight,” he said.
Though seemingly skeptical about Blunt’s sincerity, Newman’s heart appeared to be softened by Blunt’s assertion that he wanted to be present to help raise his 3-month-old son.
“Mr. Blunt, it is obvious to me you have reached a crossroads in your life,” Newman said. “What difference does it make to him if you’re here or in prison? I don’t even know how much you see him.”
Blunt's attorney, Daniel K. Whitehead, said he was surprised at the judge’s leniency given the severity of the charges and that he had prepared his client for the worst.
“To some extent, I’m proud of him. I think he’s trying to be subjective to the charge more than he might have in the past,” Whitehead said of Newman.
Whitehead said he’s tried to impress upon his client that his responsibility to stay out of trouble is not only for himself.
“You need to do this because you don’t want to blow it for others in the system,” he said. “I pray that he makes the system look good.”
Follow Rebecca R. Bibbs on Twitter at @RebeccaB_THB, or call 640-4883.
Of the other suspects, including the ringleaders in the alleged credit card fraud scheme at Hoosier Park, one has been apprehended, and three remain at large.
Michael J. Johnson, 27, of Glenwood, Ill., has a jury trial set for May 9 a.m. May 4 in Madison Circuit Court 3.
Arrest warrants have been issued for Jude C. Sayles, 26, of Indianapolis; Timothy A. Smith, 26, of Flossmoor, Ill., and Brandon K. Massey, 26, of Calumet City, Ill.