In a highly impassioned pep talk that was more sermon than political stump speech, Dorothy Brown endorsed the 5LINX home-based sales organization when executives announced promotions for the Cook County Circuit Court clerk and her husband.
“I’m a living testimony that you can make it in 5LINX against all odds,” Brown said in the speech at the multi-level marketing company’s “international event” in San Antonio two years ago.
Brown thanked 5LINX co-founders Craig Jerabeck, Jeb Tyler and Jason Guck — who introduced Brown and husband Benton Cook III to the podium at the 2015 event as the company’s “newest senior vice presidents from Illinois.”
Now, those three 5LINX co-founders face federal criminal charges of wire fraud and conspiracy. Authorities in Rochester, N.Y., arrested the men on March 23.
“Jerabeck, Tyler and Guck engaged in a scheme to defraud investors by causing millions of dollars to be diverted from 5LINX into their own personal bank accounts or onto their debit cards without the knowledge and approval of the investors,” according to a news release from the U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York.
Nothing in publicly available court records ties Brown or Cook to the alleged corruption, and the U.S. attorney in Rochester declined comment.
Brown spokeswoman Jalyne R. Strong would only say: “Your question is not related to the operations of the Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County. Clerk Brown has no comment.”
But the 5LINX defendants represent yet more questionable relationships for Brown, a veteran Chicago politician already plagued by a federal investigation that appears to be climbing higher and higher into the county government office she’s led since 2000.
On Thursday, former top aide Beena Patel pleaded not guilty in federal court here to three counts of lying to a grand jury about allegations that Brown solicited campaign contributions from staff and traded promotions in the clerk’s office for cash.
Neither Brown nor her husband has been charged, though the FBI seized her cell phone in 2015.
A few months before agents took the phone, Brown heatedly defended her involvement in 5LINX, whose executives have compared their company to Mary Kay and Amway.
According to a video recording of the company’s event in Texas in 2015, Guck said Brown and Cook “had been with 5LINX for just over one year.”
“I’m an attorney, a CPA and an MBA but, ladies and gentlemen, I joined 5LINX to be financially free,” Brown said, drawing applause. “I knew that these credentials would not get me where I wanted to be, and where I deserved to be.”
The company sells a wide variety of products, paying commission to salespeople for what they and other recruits to the cause manage to sell.
In San Antonio, Brown denied news reports that she had sought to draft her county employees to participate in 5LINX.
“Last year, when I joined 5LINX, the Chicago media targeted me,” Brown said, adding that she would have been far more successful with the company if all of her 1,800 employees really had participated.
She said the criticism initially made her “reluctant to approach people,” but she overcame those qualms and became successful because she saw “how much I could help people.”
“You can be anything you want to be,” she said. “You can do anything you want to do. There are no unreachable stars.”
Brown also thanked state Sen. Patricia Van Pelt, D-Chicago, who quit 5LINX last year after rising to be a “platinum senior vice president” in the organization.
After Brown’s speech, her husband stood at the podium.
“There’s a great camp meeting in the promised land and it’s 5LINX, y’all,” Cook said.
According to federal court records, the three defendants in the 5LINX case in New York “diverted and used for their own personal benefit approximately $11 million.”
It’s unknown whether 5LINX ultimately turned out to be as great as promised for Brown, Cook and anyone else they recruited to join them.