49-time convicted felon gets 5 years for posing as a city inspector to scam Chicago businesses

CHICAGO — Ronald Browning, accused of scamming Chicago businesses by posing as a city inspector while he was on parole for his 44th, 45th, and 46th felony convictions, is heading back to prison after pleading guilty to his 47th, 48th, and 49th felonies.

He has another case pending that, if he is found guilty, will be his 50th felony conviction.

Chicago police issued a community alert last December about a phony city inspector, a few months after Browning, 75, was paroled for running a similar scam. Cops in suburban Oak Lawn issued a similar bulletin.

Sporting a reflective vest, Browning entered a smoothie store in the 6400 block of North Sheridan on December 13, 2022, and identified himself as a city worker. He demanded payment for replacing three carbon monoxide detectors on the building’s roof, officials said.

He pretended to call the store’s manager on his phone, then told a store employee that the manager told him to get payment from the register. After the clerk handed over $80, he walked out the back door.

Ronald Browning (inset) and as seen in surveillance images from businesses he scammed. | Chicago Police Department; Illinois Department of Corrections

About ten minutes later, he walked into the UPS store next to the smoothie shop and once again demanded payment for replacing carbon monoxide detectors on the roof. The manager initially gave him $250 but then took it back after calling the store’s owner, who realized they were being scammed, prosecutors said.

Surveillance images from the two incidents were included in “multiple bulletins” about other incidents with similar details, leading to Browning’s identification, according to prosecutors.

Browning pleaded guilty to theft by deception in both Chicago cases and one suburban case before Judge James Obbish. The judge gave him five years for each city case plus two years for the suburban incident. Those sentences will be served concurrently. A fourth case, also from the suburbs, is still pending, according to clerk of court records.

After receiving a 50% sentence reduction for good behavior plus credit for time spent in jail since being arrested, Browning is expected to be paroled on June 2, 2025.

Browning has been sentenced to prison for felonies more than 40 times since 1982, according to Illinois Department of Corrections records. He has additional felony convictions in Indiana, prosecutors said.

His most recent trip to prison occurred on May 26, 2022, when he went to Stateville Correctional Center to serve two 5½-year sentences and one 1-year sentence for theft by deception. He went home the same day.

Before that, according to IDOC, Browning went to prison for:

  • 5 years for theft from a school or church in 2019
  • 8 years for burglary in 2017
  • another 8 years for burglary in 2017
  • three more 8-year sentences for burglary in 2017
  • 3 years for theft by deception in 2017
  • 2 years for theft in 2016
  • two 2-year sentences for theft by deception in 2016
  • 1 year for possession of a controlled substance in 2016
  • 10 years for aiding or abetting possession of a stolen motor vehicle in 2010
  • another 10 years for aiding or abetting possession of a stolen motor vehicle in 2010
  • yet another 10 years for aiding or abetting possession of a stolen motor vehicle in 2010
  • 10 years for theft by deception in 2004
  • 6 years for theft in 2002
  • 6 more years for another theft in 2002
  • 2 years for theft in 2001
  • 7 years for theft in 1998
  • 3 years for theft in 1997
  • 7 more 3-year sentences for theft in 1997
  • 6 years for possessing a stolen motor vehicle in 1993
  • 5 years for possessing a stolen motor vehicle in 1991
  • 2 years for escape from a penal institution by a felon in 1987
  • 4 years for possessing a stolen motor vehicle in 1987
  • 30 months for theft in 1986
  • 2 years for theft in 1986
  • another 30 months for theft in 1986
  • 30 months for retail theft in 1986
  • 6 years for burglary in 1986
  • 2 years for theft in 1985
  • another 2 years for theft in 1985
  • 2 years for theft in 1982
  • another 2 years for theft in 1982

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