Couple arrested for scams

Karen Danner
Matthew and Toscha Simmons

Bond set at $1.25 million

A Chillicothe couple remains incarcerated at Peoria County Jail following their arrest on a charge of theft Thursday at their home at 1524 Cloverdale.

Matthew R. Simmons, 35, and his wife, 32-year-old Toscha J. Simmons appeared in Peoria County Judge Paul Gilfillan’s court room Friday, where he set Matthew’s bond at $750,000 and Toscha’s at $500,000.

Due to the enormous scope of the couple’s alleged advertising scam, Peoria County state’s attorney investigators deemed the high bonds as appropriate.

Via a video-conference monitor, the Simmonses appeared to hear a charge of one count of theft.

If convicted, the felony is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.

Investigators from the state’s attorney’s office and Peoria Police Department gathered 690 angry customer e-mails, with many more victims suspected from across the United States.

The couple operated United Metro Works Inc., with other company names including United Metro Directories, Slimline and Pinpoint Marketing.

The companies offered customers local maps with business ads, community books and sports calendars for schools.

The losses are expected to reach six figures.

State’s Attorney Kevin Lyons said the company made $20,000-$40,000 in sales a week. However, the company seldom delivered the purchased materials.  

The scam came to light when a woman from Indiana contacted Lyons in January about the company and its practices.

After being charged $300 by credit card for a map she never received, investigators went to the Peoria office, located at 3521 N. California Ave., where employees tried to cover up with a map of Indiana.

Investigators said that map seemed to depict the St. Louis metro area instead.

The Better Business Bureau, when contacted by Lyons’ office, noted that more than 50 complaints had been received.

With a warrant in hand, investigators finally were able to search the company office Thursday.

They noted that no one had responded to any of the almost 700 e-mail complaints the company received.

In possibly another attempt at evasion, the company was in the process of changing names once again.

The couple’s assets have been frozen with a temporary restraining order.

According to Jodi Hoos, assistant atate’s attorney of the criminal division, the couple is being represented by Derek Asbury of Asbury Law Offices in Peoria.

The Simmons would have to post $125,000, or 10 percent, to be released from Peoria County Jail on bond.

On Monday, Shane D. Ing, 37, of 1520 Cloverdale; and Ashley L. Miller, 23, of 1217 S. Seventh Pekin; United Metro Works Inc. employees, were charged with harassing and communicating with a witness.

That witness was a former United Metro Works Inc. employee.

Ings’s bond is $150,000, and Miller’s is $100,000. The two face up to seven years in prison if convicted.

Ing also was charged with possessing a weapon (metal knuckles). Since he has already served a prison term for unlawful use of a credit card, his bond was increased.