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Theater Operator Facing Multiple Charges Following Arrest

  • Category: Local Police Reports
Kenneth Arron
Kenneth Arron speaks to the Village Board in March 2010, identifying himself as 'Kenny Yochelson.' (Photo: ENEWSPF)

Updated at 11:42 a.m. with more video.

Park Forest, IL–(ENEWSPF)– In the 1957 musical The Music Man, Professor Harold Hill arrives by train in River City Iowa and begins to work his a scam convincing parents he can teach their children music. At the end of the comedy when Hill's fraud is exposed, parents and the town forgive Hill when they hear their children attempt to play Beethoven's Minuet in G.

Officials in Park Forest are not laughing, however, at the fraud allegedly committed by Kenneth Arron, who represented himself to the community as Kenny Yochelson.

According to a press release from the Village of Park Forest, criminal charges were filed today against the operator of Holiday Star Theater in Park Forest.

Kenny Arron, who had presented himself as Kenny Yochelson since first approaching Park Forest officials in January about taking over the then‐Eagle Theater, was arrested Monday, the release said.

A routine license plate check of the vehicle Arron was driving came back registered to Holiday Star Theater, but with a Lombard address where no theater of that name existed, according to the release. When police investigated the residence where the vehicle was registered, no one of the last name Yochelson was found to have lived there, the release said. Police did locate record of a Kenneth at the address, but with the last name Arron. After being pulled over by Park Forest Police Monday morning, Kenneth Arron quickly admitted his legal name was not Kenny Yochelson ‐‐ the name many in Park Forest including police knew him to have gone by, and was taken into custody, the release said.

At the time of the traffic stop, Arron was driving on a suspended license and without insurance, according to the release.

When questioned as to why he was using a name he had not legally taken on, Arron allegedly related to officers that he had assumed the name Kenny Yochelson out of fear his criminal background would prevent him from doing business in the area.

Police say public records show that Kenneth Arron has served several prison sentences, stemming from various fraud convictions. He was last released in 2004 and has spent a total of at least 18 years in prison, the release said.

The release said Arron has signed business documents, including registering and applying for a business license in the Village of Park Forest, under the name Kenny Yochelson.

Park Forest records show a Business Registration Application was filed for Holiday Star Theater on March 8, 2010 and signed by Kenny Yochelson. The property owner listed on the application is Matanky Realty with the business owner filed as Danielle Smiley. Kenny Yochelson is named in that document as the manager.

A review of the lease agreement Holiday Star Theater holds with property owner Matanky Realty shows Kenny Yochelson and George Smiley as lease holders, the release said.

Kenneth Arron has been charged with felony count of forgery, felony count of state benefits fraud, misdemeanor charge related to the illegal conduct of a raffle, driving on a suspended license and operation of an uninsured motor vehicle, the release said.

Arron was taken to bond court in Markham this morning.

The release said that Park Forest officials have given Matanky Realty written notice to name a new theater operator and to reapply for a Park Forest business license in order to remain open.

Kenneth Arron mug shot
Kenneth Arron. (PHOTO: PFPD)

eNews Park Forest became aware of articles in the Cincinnati Enquirer from 2004 when Arron was arrested and convicted on a forgery charge:

Kenneth Arron swept into Hyde Park nearly two years ago - his loud, charismatic personality overwhelming every room he entered.

He boasted that he came from a moneyed Chicago family, claimed to be a Gulf War veteran and bragged he was the executive director of a charitable foundation that would dole out $5 million to local nonprofit organizations.

But police say he's a con man who pledged more than $200,000 to six local non-profit groups and never paid up - all in an effort to ingratiate himself with the city's elite and live the life he believed he deserved.

His life of lies and trail of deception screeched to a halt last fall, leaving him clad in a black-and-white striped jail uniform waiting to be sentenced Friday in Hamilton County on a forgery charge related to his schemes.

He was sentenced to probation:

In sentencing a Hyde Park con man to probation Friday morning, a Hamilton County judge said Kenneth Arron's biggest offense is the trail of disappointment he left in Cincinnati.

"You are a fraud," Hamilton County Common Pleas Court Judge Mark Schweikert told Arron. "You raised people's expectations and then took them away.

"People's dreams and hopes were lost," the judge said.

Schweikert sentenced the 41-year-old Hyde Park man to three years' probation on his forgery conviction. Police said Arron signed a letter last spring promising that his charitable foundation would give the Taft Museum of Art $19,000 for scholarships to its summer camp - money he never paid.

After the museum awarded two extra scholarships, which were to be paid from Arron's pledge, officials discovered the foundation was fake and Arron had no money. The museum honored the scholarships.

Schweikert ordered Arron to pay a $500 fine and pay the museum $1,680 it spent on advertising the scholarships, money his parents provided, said Arron's attorney, Jack Rubenstein.

Arron also appeared on Fox Business television in March 2010 using the name "Kenny Yochelson."

Behind the scenes at the Holiday Star Theater:

Before the Village Board in March, 2010:

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