Remember Lamont Cathey? He’s Chicago’s jail-eating man, a ten-time convicted felon who has cost taxpayers at least $2 million in medical bills by literally eating pieces of the county detention facility.
We first told you about Cathey one year ago. That’s when prosecutors charged him with breaking into a Lincoln Park gym locker and using the victim’s credit cards at a nearby business — while on parole for burglary and possessing a stolen motor vehicle. Then, we told you about him again two weeks later when he allegedly escaped from electronic monitoring.
He’s back in the county jail today. Prosecutors say he broke into lockers at a couple of yoga studios, used the victims’ credit cards at local businesses, and — oh yeah — stole one victim’s Maserati from the gym parking lot. Cathey is still on parole, was still on bond for last year’s cases and, yes, he was hospitalized after his latest arrest for “foreign body ingestion,” police said.
On February 19, a Google engineer went for his usual yoga session on the 1100 block of South Delano Court in the South Loop. Afterward, he discovered that someone had broken into his locker during his workout. His wallet, keys, and phone were gone. And his Maserati was missing from the parking lot, according to a CPD report.
Prosecutors said high-quality video showed Cathey walking out of the retail complex, lifting the parking garage gate with his hands, and driving the victim’s Maserati away.
Cathey then used the victim’s credit cards to buy two iPads worth $2,399 from a nearby Target store, prosecutors said. Detectives sent surveillance images of the thief to cops across the city, and some of them recognized Cathey.
Two days after the South Loop incident, and before police caught up with Cathey, he broke into a man’s locker at a yoga studio on the 200 block of West Ontario, according to a criminal complaint. He allegedly took $100 cash, a phone, and a wallet. He quickly used that victim’s credit cards to buy $2,400 worth of merchandise from Best Buy, 1000 West North Avenue, and over $1,100 in products from Target, 2656 North Elston, according to prosecutors.
Police spotted Cathey in Old Town last week and took him into custody to face charges. Prosecutors charged him with burglary, possessing a stolen motor vehicle, and two counts of identity theft.
But he did not appear in person for his bail hearing. A police officer told Judge David Navarro that Cathey was being treated at St. Joseph Hospital for “foreign body ingestion.”
Navarro ordered him held on $100,000 bail for the new charges. He ordered Cathey held without bail for violating the terms of release in the cases from last year.
Just eight days after Cathey was paroled last February, he allegedly stole a wallet from a man’s locker at Lakeshore Sports & Fitness, 1320 West Fullerton, in Lincoln Park. Police arrested Cathey the same afternoon by tracking activity on one of the victim’s stolen credit cards.
Prosecutors said Cathey had possession of the man’s wallet and debit cards and Lakeshore Fitness video showed Cathey was in the building around the time of the theft.
The Illinois Parole Board decided not to revoke Cathey’s parole, so he went home on electronic monitoring without paying any cash bail.
Just three days after deputies attached an electronic monitor to his ankle on February 28, 2021, Cathey left his house and went to a South Side motel, prosecutors said. He then allegedly traveled to various locations throughout the city before returning home a few hours later.
The next day, on March 4, Cathey had permission to travel to Skokie for a court hearing in the identity theft case. He left his house at 7:30 a.m. and returned about ten hours later — but he never went to court, prosecutors say. So, a warrant was issued for his arrest.
When deputies arrested him for escape, Cathey reportedly said he didn’t go to court because he had no money to get there. He did, however, have money to drive to a bunch of other locations when he should have been in Skokie, Assistant State’s Attorney James Murphy said.
Coincidentally, Cathey’s wanderings while on electronic monitoring would not be considered criminal matters today. State legislators last year decriminalized “EM” absences of less than 48 hours. They also gave people on EM permission to leave the house two days a week to run errands.
The “Jail-eating man”
Cathey ran up his first $1 million in medical bills back in 2015 when he was in jail awaiting trial for allegedly robbing a restaurant.
He ate screws, thumbtacks, leather, needles, and a four-inch piece of metal.
As of 2016, he had undergone 20 surgeries to remove metal objects he consumed while in custody, CBS2 reported.
Cara Smith, a sheriff’s office spokesperson at the time, called Cathey’s case “a crushingly sad and very frustrating case.”
When Cathey later returned to jail for allegedly possessing a stolen motor vehicle and escaping electronic monitoring, he started eating the facility again — and ran up another $1 million bill for treatment.
At one point, jail authorities shipped him to Loyola Medical Center, where he spent three months handcuffed to a bed as sheriff’s deputies guarded him 24/7. According to contemporaneous media reports, Cathey’s stay at Loyola dragged on months longer than was medically necessary because Cermak and the county-operated Stroger Hospital refused to take him.
Eventually, Loyola filed a lawsuit to force the county to take custody of Cathey. They finally did, and he was sent to Stroger.
Cathey pleaded guilty to escape, and three counts of aggravated fleeing causing bodily injury four months later and was sentenced to two years in prison.