Illinois Corruption Watch, October 2014

Brian Costin

Open government and government transparency expert

Brian Costin
November 1, 2014

Illinois Corruption Watch, October 2014

In October, we found 52 different stories of potential public corruption in Illinois, including a trio of stories related to the election. An Illinois Policy investigation into emails from a group of Kankakee County superintendents revealed potentially illegal activities to pass a countywide sales-tax hike for school facilities. Documents obtained suggest illegal actions by superintendents...

In October, we found 52 different stories of potential public corruption in Illinois, including a trio of stories related to the election.

An Illinois Policy investigation into emails from a group of Kankakee County superintendents revealed potentially illegal activities to pass a countywide sales-tax hike for school facilities. Documents obtained suggest illegal actions by superintendents including fundraising, canvassing and advertising campaigning in favor of the sales-tax referendum.

While Illinois state law prohibits public officials from campaigning for or against any referendum during public time, documents revealed Kankakee County superintendents were meeting on school property during regular school hours and coordinating on a campaign plan for the sales-tax hike referendum. A complaint has been filed with local, state and federal authorities.

Separately, Chicago 5th Ward Alderman Leslie Hairston was accused of violating the Illinois Election Code by offering campaign supporters entries into a raffle for prizes and gift certificates to local stores if they brought a voting receipt to her office.

Voters should be extra careful if they choose to use touchscreen voting at polling places this year. There have been multiple reports in Illinois of malfunctioning touch screen voting machines switching votes from one party to the other.

Imagine the surprise of state representative candidate Jim Moynihan when trying to vote at the Schaumburg Public Library reported, “I tried to cast a vote for myself and instead it cast a vote for my opponent.” He also reported vote switches happened in a handful of other races too.

The machine was eventually taken out of service. Cook County Clerk’s Office Deputy Communications Director Jim Scalzitti informed Illinois Watchdog, “This was a calibration error of the touch-screen, it improperly assigned his votes due to improper calibration.”

Be sure to alert election judges if you experience similar problems at the ballot box.

Will “calibration error” soon replace “hanging chad” in election lore? Hopefully not, but we will keep watching and reporting on election issues and public corruption in Illinois.

52. Oct. 30, 2014

Illinois Policy: Kankakee County superintendents behaving badly

A Freedom of Information Act investigation conducted by the Illinois Policy Institute has revealed potentially illegal activities being conducted by a group of school district superintendents from Kankakee County, along with the regional superintendent, in conjunction with private firms such as financial conglomerate Stifel, Nicolaus & Co. and campaign consultant Unicom-ARC.

Documents obtained through these FOIA requests suggest school officials are using school resources on school time to conduct a sophisticated campaign designed by Unicom-ARC to raise sales taxes on Kankakee County shoppers. Activities include campaign fundraising, canvassing and advertising strategy for an explicit “say yes” campaign to hike sales taxes.

51. Oct. 30, 2014

The Daily Journal: St. Anne principal fired over alleged theft

St. Anne Grade School Principal Mike Kelly was fired by the school board this week for what the district said, in a note sent home with students, was a “misappropriation of funds.”

School board president Tom Hoekstra confirmed the action but said he could not comment whether further action would be taken. “There are still some undecided matters,” he said

50. Oct. 30, 2014

U.S. Attorney’s Office: Former Northwestern Physician to Pay the United States $475,000 to Settle Cancer Research Grant Fraud Claims

A former cancer research physician at Northwestern University’s Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Center for Cancer in Chicago will pay the United States $475,000 to settle claims of federal research grant fraud. Dr. Charles L. Bennett agreed to the settlement in a federal False Claims Act lawsuit that was first made public last year after the government investigated the claims made by a former employee and whistleblower who will receive a portion of the settlement.

In July 2013, Northwestern University agreed to pay the United States $2.93 million to settle identical claims against the university. Northwestern, which fully cooperated during the investigation, did not admit liability as part of the settlement.

In a settlement agreement filed today in U.S. District Court, Dr. Bennett, of Columbia, S. Car., also did not admit liability, nor did the government concede that its claims were not well-founded.

49. Oct. 29, 2014

Tribune: Quinn’s IDOT scandal will cost taxpayers

Chicago attorney Noelle Brennan, who spent nine years shepherding the city of Chicago into compliance with a federal consent decree banning patronage hires, will soon hang her shingle at the Illinois Department of Transportation.

Brennan was assigned in 2005 to oversee hiring in Chicago, after a federal investigation proved City Hall had been violating an earlier decree banning patronage in city government. Under her supervision, the city overhauled its hiring process to guard against political meddling.

The cost to taxpayers: $22.8 million for settlements, legal fees and consultants.

48. Oct. 29, 2014

Sun-Times: OPINION – Refund those unfair yellow-light tickets

Chicago is on solid legal ground in hanging onto $7.7 million raked in by ticketing people who drove through shorter-than-advertised yellow lights. We can’t really disagree.

But here’s the point City Hall is ignoring completely as it happily pulls in those millions of dollars in fine: Huge numbers of Chicagoans don’t trust the fairness of the city’s entire red-light camera program, even if it helps make our streets safer. They believe City Hall’s real agenda is to raise money. And the city doesn’t do much to dispel such notions when it refuses to refund money from tickets issued this year when a yellow changed to red in less than three seconds, the city’s own announced standard. Even if we’re talking a tenth of a second.

47. Oct. 29, 2014

Tribune: Chicago alderman probed in raffle-for-vote offer

Cook County prosecutors are investigating a longtime South Side alderman who offered raffle tickets to people who vote in next week’s election, a move the alderman on Wednesday conceded was wrong.

In a Facebook posting that has since been removed, 5th Ward Ald. Leslie Hairston offered a raffle ticket — with the chance to win multiple prizes of gift certificates from local stores — to anyone who brought a voting receipt to her office.

46. Oct. 29, 2014

WBEZ: Aldermen skip chance to ask about city’s handling of police commander

The Chicago City Council on Wednesday heard testimony from the head of the city agency that investigates police-brutality complaints. But the aldermen skipped the chance to ask him about the city’s handling of a police commander who faces felony charges in a case that began with one of those complaints.

The occasion was the annual Independent Police Review Authority budget hearing. IPRA Chief Administrator Scott Ando (see photo) testified about a reduction in a backlog of open investigations and about new community outreach.

Alderman did not ask about Glenn Evans, the embattled commander, who allegedly rammed his service pistol down an arrested man’s throat last year

45. Oct. 28, 2014

Daily Herald: Griffin: Carpentersville is ‘violating’ state law, attorney general says

By refusing to release the arrest report and accompanying video of a traffic stop involving a man who died less than 24 hours later at an Elgin hospital, Carpentersville is “violating” state law, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s spokeswoman said.

While it’s rare for government bodies like Carpentersville to defy the attorney general’s public records rulings, “it happens,” said Sarah Pratt, head of the attorney general’s Public Access Counselor office.

44. Oct. 28, 2014

Crain’s: One more Quinn patronage tale before the election

Today, I have one final story about incumbent Gov. Pat Quinn and his weak point: alleged patronage abuses in the Illinois Department of Transportation. But this story of how someone appeared to get a job with political pull and then ended up on the payroll of the state’s Executive Ethics Commission does have a certain only-in-Illinois quality to it.

The story involves a woman named Gretchen Tucka. She was referenced several times as “Employee 218” in a report by Illinois Executive Inspector General Ricardo Meza that absolutely excoriated IDOT, charging that hundreds of people had been improperly hired by the department under Govs. Rod Blagojevich and Pat Quinn.

Even though Ms. Tucka is paid by the commission as a purchasing officer, she actually handles purchasing duties for IDOT and was appointed by Bill Grunloh, chief procurement officer of that department.

43. Oct. 28, 2014

Tribune: Chicago will keep $7.7M from quiet change in yellow light standard
Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration will not refund $7.7 million in red light camera tickets it collected after quietly lowering the yellow light standard, the city’s transportation chief said Tuesday.

The mayor told the Tribune earlier this month that he would consider refunds, but Chicago Department of Transportation chief Rebekah Scheinfeld made it clear that would not be happening — even though the city made a determination in September to restore the longer yellow light standard.

42. Oct. 28, 2014

Tribune: Troubled Harvey police will be scrutinized by sheriff

In a suburb the Tribune found was arguably the area’s most lawless, Harvey’s City Council has defied the mayor and invited the sheriff to assess a Police Department long plagued by scandals and sloppy casework.

The move caps a yearlong push by Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart to take a deeper look at the troubled town — only to be rebuffed by Harvey’s longtime mayor and then the County Board.

41. Oct. 27, 2014

Sun-Times: Clout hires, consultants at Chicago’s tourism trough

The mayor eliminated City Hall’s tourism office, transferring many of its duties to the private, not-for-profit convention bureau, whose board was chaired at the time by Bruce Rauner, now the Republican candidate for governor. The combined tourism operation, renamed Choose Chicago, gets about $8 million a year from the city under the arrangement — part of $28.4 million in city and state tax money in its 2013-14 budget.

But Choose Chicago also has become a home for six-figure-salaried employees, lobbying firms with ties to House Speaker Michael J. Madigan and former Mayor Richard M. Daley, and a consultant who’s a friend of Emanuel, according to a Chicago Sun-Times examination of government contracts, IRS filings and other documents.

40. Oct. 24, 2014

U.S. Attorney’s Office: Four Men Indicted in $1.6 Million Fraud

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that Qais Hussein, 43, and Majdi Odeh, 45, both of Swansea, Illinois, were charged on Oct. 22, 2014, with Conspiracy to Unlawfully Acquire Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) Benefits (formerly known as Food Stamp benefits), Aiding and Assisting in the Preparation and Presentation of False Tax Returns, and Trafficking in Counterfeit Goods in an Indictment returned by a Federal Grand Jury sitting in East Saint Louis, Illinois. The Indictment also charges Hossam Ahmed, 24, of Saint Louis, Missouri, and Elsayed Hassan, 24, of Belleville, in the offense of Conspiracy to Unlawfully Acquire SNAP Benefits.

For the SNAP benefit conspiracy charge, all four men face up to 5 years in federal prison, up to a $250,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. For the two tax fraud counts, Hussein and Odeh face up to 3 years in federal prison, up to a $100,000 fine, and one year of supervised release as to each of the two counts. For the trafficking in counterfeit goods charge, Hussein and Odeh face up to 10 years in federal prison, up to a $2,000,000 fine, and three years of supervised release. Each man also faces $100 special assessment for each count.

39. Oct. 24, 2014

Kane County Chronicle: Batavia aldermen to review request for Prairie State investigation

Batavia – The language regarding a request to the Attorney General’s Office for an investigation of Prairie State Energy Campus has been drafted.

The resolution requests Attorney General Lisa Madigan to “conduct an investigation and audit of the Prairie State Project agreements and communities to determine whether the city of Batavia was given full and accurate information about the Prairie State Project before the time it entered into the agreements and whether any affirmative, material misrepresentations or material omissions were made in the presentation of information to the city of Batavia with respect to the Prairie State Project.”

38. Oct. 23, 2014

Sun-Times: Suit: Alsip treasurer fired by mayor after rejecting sexual advances

Alsip Mayor Patrick Kitching fired village Treasurer Elizabeth Gonzalez last year because she had rejected his sexual advances over several years, according to a federal lawsuit filed Wednesday in Chicago.

Kitching’s improper conduct included often leaving on Gonzalez’s desk personal cards that contained “suggestive messages,” the suit claims.

37. Oct. 23, 2014

Sun-Times: Republican senators question Quinn’s IDOT scandal response

A day after a federal judge was appointed to monitor hiring at the Illinois Department of Transportation, two state Republican senators raised questions about whether those fired are working in other state positions, and insinuated there may be “corruption” in other state departments.

Radogno joined state Sen. Karen McConnaughay, GOP spokeswoman of the Senate Transportation Committee, on Thursday in questioning hiring at other state departments.

36. Oct. 23, 2014

Sun-Times: Key player in red light camera scandal plans to plead guilty

Martin O’Malley — a key player in Chicago’s red light camera scandal involving Redflex Traffic Systems — plans to plead guilty in December, according to court records filed Wednesday.

O’Malley, 73, of Worth, was employed as a “consultant” for Redflex when its deal to provide red light cameras to the city began in 2003. But his main role was allegedly to funnel cash and perks to his pal, city worker John Bills, who is accused of helping rig the contract for Redflex in return for kickbacks.

35. Oct. 22, 2014

Illinois Watchdog: Cook County ballot box tries to cast GOP votes for Democrats

Early voting in Illinois got off to its typical start Monday, as votes being cast for Republican candidates were transformed into votes for Democrats.

Republican state representative candidate Jim Moynihan went to vote Monday at the Schaumburg Public Library.

“I tried to cast a vote for myself and instead it cast the vote for my opponent,” Moynihan said. “You could imagine my surprise as the same thing happened with a number of races when I tried to vote for a Republican and the machine registered a vote for a Democrat.”

34. Oct. 22, 2014

State Journal-Register: Sun-Times political reporter resigns following Rauner complaint

An Illinois political reporter says he’s resigned after being put on temporary leave when Republican governor candidate Bruce Rauner’s campaign accused him of having a conflict of interest.

Dave McKinney was the Chicago Sun-Times’ Springfield bureau chief.

He wrote a letter Wednesday to the CEO of Sun-Times’ parent company, Wrapports LLC. It says he resigned because he believes the owners improperly influenced newsroom decisions.

33. Oct. 22, 2014

State Journal-Register: Federal judge orders court-appointed monitor for IDOT hiring

A federal judge on Wednesday ordered a court-appointed monitor to review hiring problems at Gov. Pat Quinn’s Department of Transportation, a setback for the Democrat running for re-election largely on how he navigated Illinois away from ethical problems.

The ruling — less than two weeks before the election — followed a motion filed in April by anti-patronage campaigner Michael Shakman, who alleged that a long span of improper hiring based on clout and connections necessitated an outside monitor and further investigation at IDOT. Quinn administration attorneys had argued that neither was necessary because a state inspector general had investigated and the issues already were being addressed.

32. Oct. 22, 2014

Daily Herald: Griffin: Some residents taxed twice for sheriff patrols

Taxpayers living in the unincorporated parts of Bloomingdale, Wayne and York townships in DuPage County are on the hook for an extra $108,000 per township next year to pay for special patrols by DuPage County sheriff’s deputies.

That’s a 60 percent spike from the roughly $66,000 per deputy — one deputy each for Bloomingdale, Wayne and York townships, and three for Milton — it was costing just two years ago, according to county finance records. By 2018, the cost is expected to be almost $125,000 a year for each deputy.

31. Oct. 21, 2014

Sun-Times: OPINION – Back to the past with mayor’s move

City Treasurer Stephanie Neely announced Monday that she’s quitting, just four months short of the February municipal elections. This sets it up for Mayor Rahm Emanuel to appoint her replacement, which he is wasting no time in doing, effectively icing out anybody else who might want to run for the office in an actual open election. Incumbents backed by mayors are awfully tough to beat.

Our beef is with the complete disregard for an open, democratic process.

30. Oct. 21, 2014

Tribune: City Council watchdog sues Emanuel, aldermen

The Chicago City Council’s watchdog sued Mayor Rahm Emanuel and key aldermen Tuesday, accusing them of hindering his investigative abilities by not properly funding the office.

Legislative Inspector General Faisal Khan’s lawsuit is the latest salvo in an increasingly bitter feud between aldermen and the watchdog who has the power to investigate them. Khan long has complained that a lack of funding has hamstrung his office’s ability to look into possible wrongdoing in the City Council, and his lawsuit takes those complaints a step further, into Cook County court.

29. Oct. 20, 2014

U.S. Attorney’s Office: Suburban Dermatologist Convicted of Cheating Medicare and Private Insurers of $2.6 Million in Health Care Fraud Scheme

A dermatologist in west suburban Lombard was convicted today of defrauding Medicare and private health insurers by submitting false claims for more than 800 patients resulting in losses totaling more than $2.6 million.  The defendant, DR. ROBERT KOLBUSZ, falsely diagnosed patients with actinic keratosis, or sun-induced skin lesions that have potential to become cancerous, and then billed public and private health insurers for treatments that were ineffective and falsely documented.

Kolbusz, 57, of Oak Brook, owns and operates the Center for Dermatology and Skin Cancer, Ltd., in Lombard and formerly located in Downers Grove.  He was found guilty of three counts of wire fraud and three counts of mail fraud by a jury that began deliberating on Friday after a four-week trial in U.S. District Court.

28. Oct. 20, 2014

Sun-Times: Fioretti tries to put heat on Emanuel over short yellow lights

Mayoral challenger Bob Fioretti is urging his supporters to sign petitions demanding that Mayor Rahm Emanuel “restore the public trust by refunding” $7.7 million in fines generated by red-light cameras after the timing of yellow lights was reduced from 3 seconds to 2.9 seconds.

Earlier this month, Inspector General Joe Ferguson faulted the Chicago Department of Transportation for exercising “benign neglect” in its oversight of a red-light camera contractor at the center of a bribery scandal, allowing both suspicious ticketing spikes and equipment failures that may have cost the city millions to go unnoticed.

27. Oct. 20, 2014

Sun-Times: Election coverage fearless and fair

At the Sun-Times, we like to report the news, not be the news. Unfortunately, this weekend we were the political story in Illinois.

Our journalistic ethics were questioned by the campaign of Bruce Rauner, the Republican candidate for governor, in regard to a story we published along with our partners at NBC5 this month. The story looked into a court case involving the tactics Rauner used in confronting a former CEO of one of the companies he and his former company, GTCR, backed several years ago (“Hardball tactics alleged in lawsuit against Bruce Rauner,” Oct. 7).

26. Oct. 19, 2014

Sun-Times: 3 Daley scandals cost taxpayers $6 million in legal fees

Chicago taxpayers have paid more than $6 million to private lawyers hired to fight three City Hall scandals that benefited family and friends of former Mayor Richard M. Daley.

And the legal bills keep mounting, as the court battles, being waged in state and federal courthouses from Chicago to Delaware, go on.

25. Oct. 17, 2014

Crain’s: Did Rauner camp interfere with this Sun-Times reporter’s job?

A Chicago Sun-Times reporter hired former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins to investigate whether the campaign of Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Rauner tried to interfere with his employment after the newspaper ran a story unfavorable to the politician.

Mr. McKinney’s attorney, Mr. Collins, contends the Rauner campaign attempted to have the Sun-Times take action against Mr. McKinney because of what it alleged were conflicts of interest stemming from Mr. McKinney’s marriage to Democratic media consultant Ann Liston.

24. Oct. 16, 2014

U.S. Attorney’s Office: Collinsville Man Pleads Guilty to Theft of Medicaid Funds

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that on Oct. 15, 2014, Lawrence Thigpen, 53, of Collinsville, Illinois, pled guilty to submitting false and fraudulent bills in relation to personal assistant services in the Home Services Program, a Medicaid Waiver Program designed to allow individuals to stay in their homes instead of entering a nursing home.

Facts brought out in Court showed that Thigpen was falsifying time sheets in order for his girlfriend, who was also his personal assistant, to receive payments for time periods when she was actually locked up in jail. Sentencing has been set for February 13, 2015, in United States District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois. Thigpen will face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to 3 years of supervised release.

23. Oct. 16, 2014

Department of Justice: Cahokia Man Pleads Guilty To Health Care Fraud

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that on Oct. 15, 2014, Quincy O. Gamble, 39, of Cahokia, Illinois, pled guilty to an indictment charging that he engaged in a scheme to commit healthcare fraud. Sentencing has been set for February 15, 2015, in United States District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois. Gamble will face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to 3 years of supervised release.

During his plea hearing, Gamble admitted that he had submitted false and fraudulent bills in relation to his alleged performance of personal assistant services in the Home Services Program, a Medicaid Waiver Program designed to allow individuals to stay in their homes instead of entering a nursing home.

22. Oct. 16, 2014

Department of Justice: Man Pleads Guilty To Theft Of Medicaid Funds

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced that Maurice Burks, 43, of East St Louis, Illinois, pled guilty today in federal district court to submitting false and fraudulent bills in relation to personal assistant services in the Home Services Program, a Medicaid Waiver Program designed to allow individuals to stay in their homes instead of entering a nursing home.

The investigation determined that Burks, who was the personal assistant in this case, was falsifying time sheets with his brother in order to receive payments for time periods when his brother (who was the customer) was in the hospital and when Burks was working another job.

21. Oct. 16, 2014

Crain’s: Teachers union paid part of cost of charter school study

Here’s a P.S. to my item earlier in the week about a report from University of Minnesota researcher Myron Orfield dinging charter schools in Chicago.

The report concluded that, adjusted for parental involvement and other factors, charters aren’t much better than regular Chicago public schools and in some ways perform worse. But it’s been brought to my attention that Mr. Orfield conceded in a later interview with WTTW that the Chicago Teachers Union, a vehement foe of charters, picked up part of the tab.

20. Oct. 15, 2014

Sun-Times: Emanuel campaign gets over $125K from United, American employees

Mayor Rahm Emanuel has gotten more than $125,000 in campaign contributions from 51 employees of United Airlines and American Airlines in recent months as he prepares to make pivotal decisions affecting O’Hare Airport’s two largest carriers.

The number of United and American contributors to Emanuel has soared fivefold since his first mayoral race, a Chicago Sun-Times analysis of campaign records found.

19. Oct. 15, 2014

Sun-Times: Emanuel opens door to reparations fund for Burge victims

One week after ruling it out, Mayor Rahm Emanuel on Wednesday cracked the door open to compensating 94 victims — allegedly tortured by a crew of police officers led by Area 2 Commander Jon Burge — who couldn’t sue because the statute of limitations has run out.

Plaintiffs attorneys are demanding a $20 million “reparations” fund. Emanuel said he’s not certain that’s the appropriate figure nor has he pinpointed where he would find the money in a city budget that already includes $54.5 million in targeted tax hikes and loophole closings that amount to the same.

18. Oct. 15, 2014

Bloomington Pantagraph: Defense: BPD ‘quotas’ at issue in records request

Bloomington police officers faced consequences for failure to meet performance standards, including an assignment change from traffic enforcement to squad car cleaning, according to a lawyer for a former officer facing criminal charges.

In a hearing Tuesday in the forgery and official misconduct case against Brent Van Hoveln, defense attorney Stephanie Wong said she wants city police records that could back up VanHoveln’s claims that he was required to write a minimum number of tickets.

17. Oct. 13, 2014

Tribune: Ice arena operator who donated $165K to Bolingbrook mayor gets break on rent

At a Bolingbrook Village Board meeting in May, longtime Mayor Roger Claar lamented the high cost of hockey, not only for those who play it but for those who run ice arenas.

The Village Board, a group that has supported Claar virtually without dissent for years, promptly cut a break for Edward Schroeder, a businessman who runs an ice arena out of a village-owned property. Under a past deal, the rent paid by Schroeder was supposed to triple.

Twenty days earlier, Schroeder had made one of his annual contributions to the mayor’s campaign fund. The ice arena owner, his wife and his firms have given Claar $164,500 since 1999, a Tribune investigation has found.

16. Oct. 12, 2014

Tribune: How Chicago’s red light ticketing turned yellow lights into cash

Confronted with questions about a flurry of red light camera tickets stamped with yellow times below the 3-second minimum, Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration said the fluctuation of hundredths of a second was normal — imperceptible to anyone behind the wheel of a car.

The Emanuel administration on Friday acknowledged that it had changed the rules on what qualifies for a $100 ticket, quietly directing its new red light camera vendor to tag drivers even when the duration of a yellow light slips just below the 3-second standard set by the city.

The policy generated 77,000 more tickets and nearly $8 million in revenue for the city over the last six months.

15. Oct. 9, 2014

U.S. Attorney’s Office: Missouri Woman Sentenced for Health Care Fraud

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced that today, Tisa V. Vaughn, 49, of Florissant, Missouri, was sentenced on a one-count indictment charging that she engaged in a scheme to commit health care fraud. On March 19, 2014, a jury found Vaughn guilty after a three-day trial in federal court. Today, the district court sentenced Vaughn to fifteen months in federal prison, to be followed by three years of supervised release. Vaughn was also ordered to pay $14,873.56 in restitution back to the State of Illinois and a $100 special assessment.

Evidence showed that Vaughn was the personal assistant for her sister, a Medicaid recipient, who resides in East St. Louis. It was shown at trial that Vaughn billed for hours of care when she was either not caring for her sister or when her sister was actually in the hospital. Furthermore, testimony indicated that the sisters split the payments that Vaughn billed and received from the Home Services Program for the State of Illinois. In today’s sentencing, the district court commented that the sentence was higher than usual because Vaughn had obstructed justice by having her sister lie about the fraud scheme to authorities.

14. Oct. 9, 2014

U.S. Attorney’s Office: St. Clair Woman Sentenced for Theft of Government Social Security Benefits

Stephen R, Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today that Tara Star Johndrow, 30, of Belleville, Illinois, was sentenced on one count of Theft of Government Funds in the United States District Court in East St. Louis, Illinois. The district court sentenced Johndrow to five years’ probation with the first six months in home detention. The court also ordered her to pay restitution to the Social Security Administration in the amount of $14,560.48 and pay a special assessment of $100.

On June 16, 2014, Johndrow pled guilty to the charge. During the plea, Johndrow admitted that between August of 2010 and August of 2012, she received approximately $14,500 in Supplemental Social Security Payments from the Social Security Administration, when she falsely claimed to the government agency that she did not work, when she, in fact, was working.

13. Oct. 9, 2014

State Journal-Register: Ex-Quinn aide testifies before lawmaker panel

The boundaries between state government and political campaigns came into question Thursday as state lawmakers grilled Gov. Pat Quinn’s ex-chief of staff during a hearing about a troubled anti-violence program that has since ended.

Republican lawmakers focused on former aide Jack Lavin’s email exchanges from 2010 to suggest Quinn used the $55 million Neighborhood Recovery Initiative for political gain that election year, a line of questioning one Democratic commission member deemed “a witch hunt.”

12. Oct. 9, 2014

Tribune: Shorter yellow times are now the ticket

A Tribune examination of overturned red light tickets revealed evidence that the city of Chicago has quietly cast a wider net to snare drivers since switching camera vendors earlier this year amid a bribery scandal.

A before-and-after analysis of photographic evidence and interviews with experts suggests the transition to a new vendor last spring was accompanied by a subtle but significant lowering of the threshold for yellow light times.

11. Oct. 8, 2014

State Journal-Star: Director: Quinn anti-violence program mostly sound

The former agency head overseeing Gov. Pat Quinn’s troubled anti-violence program gave state lawmakers a contrasting picture Wednesday, saying the 2010 initiative largely worked, creating jobs and opportunities during a violent time for the Chicago area.

Shaw was among seven former officials subpoenaed before the Legislative Audit Commission, which is reviewing a state audit outlining “pervasive” management and spending problems. Cook County and federal authorities are also investigating.

10. Oct. 6, 2014

Tribune: Quinn job training groups returning money

Democratic Gov. Pat Quinn spent nearly $5 million on special job training grants as part of a sweeping anti-violence program he quickly launched during his 2010 campaign, but about a third of the community groups that received money had to give some of it back.

In all, eight of 25 community groups getting Quinn’s Training for Tomorrow grants fell short of the program’s goals and have returned money or plan to reimburse the state about $220,000. Most of the repayments came in after the Tribune inquired about the grants in early August.

9. Oct. 6, 2014

Crain’s: New questions about clout in Quinn’s anti-violence program

A church closely connected to former top gubernatorial aide Billy Ocasio was awarded a contract for up to $100,000 from Gov. Pat Quinn’s embattled Neighborhood Recovery Initiative — even though Mr. Ocasio had helped supervise NRI grant-making as Mr. Quinn’s senior adviser.

New Life Covenant Church, where Mr. Ocasio’s wife, Veronica Ocasio, works as chief of staff, received the contract and ultimately was paid just under $43,000 for developing a youth employment program, according to records compiled by the Illinois Auditor General’s office and information obtained from state records by Crain’s.

8. Oct. 3, 2014

U.S. Attorney’s Office: Mount Vernon Woman Pleads Guilty to Health Care Fraud

Stephen R. Wigginton, United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, announced today, that Margaret R. Teriet, 32, of Mount Vernon, Illinois, pled guilty to a one-count indictment charging that she engaged in a scheme to commit health care fraud. Sentencing has been set for January 15, 2015, in United States District Court in Benton, Illinois. Teriet will face up to 10 years in prison, a fine of up to $250,000, and up to 3 years of supervised release.

During her plea hearing, Teriet admitted that she had submitted false and fraudulent bills in relation to her alleged performance of personal assistant services in the Home Services Program, a Medicaid Waiver Program designed to allow individuals to stay in their homes instead of entering a nursing home. Teriet admitted to falsely billing the program between April 30, 2012 and December 31, 2012, when she purportedly rendered personal assistant services to an individual when she, in fact, did not. As a result, Teriet improperly received payments for services not performed.

7. Oct. 3, 2014

Department of Justice: Cahokia Woman Sentenced For Stealing Funds From Department Of Veterans Affairs

The United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today that Mary Lee Owens, 54, of Cahokia, was sentenced today in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois in East Saint Louis on charges that she stole pension benefits from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Owens admitted that from November 2004 through April 2013, she fraudulently obtained $70,260 from the Department of Veterans Affairs.

6. Oct. 3, 2014

Washington Times: How a college hid $95 million in expense like booze, shooting clubs

The second-largest college in Illinois has been rocked by a financial scandal caused by shady bookkeeping and a litany of questionable purchases, including a pricey shooting club membership for the school’s president, and hundreds of thousands of dollars in alcohol purchases accounted for in the books as an “instructional supply.”

The College of DuPage managed to hide more than $95 million in expenditures on more than 82,600 transactions since 2009 thanks to a peculiar type of accounting that allowed for thousands of purchases to be lumped together into one line item, according to data uncovered by American Transparency’s, an online portal aggregating 1.3 billion lines of federal, state and local spending.

5. Oct. 2, 2014

Tribune: State Sen. Trotter denies approving letters to top Zimbabwe officials

State Sen. Donne Trotter testified in federal court Thursday that he never authorized a South Side man to sign letters on his behalf promising top Zimbabwe officials that he would lobby President Barack Obama to end U.S. sanctions against the African nation’s oppressive regime.

Trotter, a South Side Democrat, is a key prosecution witness against C. Gregory Turner, who is charged with illegally lobbying to push for the lifting of economic sanctions imposed in 2003 on Zimbabwe President Robert Mugabe’s government.

4. Oct. 2, 2014

Sun-Times: GOP attacks ‘rebranded’ NRI program, Quinn ridicules claim

The ranking Republican on a legislative panel probing the failed Neighborhood Recovery Initiative accused Gov. Pat Quinn Thursday of launching a “rebranded” multimillion-dollar anti-violence program designed to boost his re-election chances ahead of next month’s election.

A Quinn spokesman branded state Sen. Jason Barickman’s claim as “false and ridiculous,” and said the state dollars in question that were expended since July 1 went to pay for programming authorized in the previous state budget cycle.

Barickman, R-Bloomington, was joined by state Sen. Dale Righter, R-Mattoon, and Sen. Darin LaHood, R-Peoria, in alleging that Quinn was siphoning off millions of dollars to some of the same social-service providers who took a drubbing in a February audit of the 2010 NRI program.

3. Oct. 2, 2014

Tribune: Few red light camera refunds, spikes unexplained

City Hall has promised 126 refunds to drivers tagged for $100 fines during suspicious spikes in red light camera tickets discovered by a Tribune investigation but upheld thousands of other tickets issued at the same times — all without explaining what caused the sudden surges.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s administration offered to review nearly 16,000 tickets issued during spikes exposed by the Tribune in July, and about 3,300 responses came back. A Tribune review of who got those letters and the way the appeals are being conducted raises new questions about the city’s effort to restore confidence in Chicago’s beleaguered camera program.

2. Oct. 1, 2014

Sun-Times: Bribe allegations against state Sen. Donne Trotter withdrawn

Defense attorneys in the illegal lobbying trial of C. Greg Turner have withdrawn allegations that state Sen. Donne Trotter accepted a $2,000 cash bribe as part of an FBI sting.

Turner’s attorneys Michael Leonard and James Tunick last week had alleged that Trotter accepted the cash from Turner’s co-defendant, Prince Asiel Ben Israel, then failed to declare it as either a political contribution or as income on his taxes.

1. Oct. 1, 2014

Sun-Times: Lawyer: Key witness will answer questions from panel probing NRI

The former head of the state agency Gov. Pat Quinn put in charge of his failed Neighborhood Recovery Initiative anti-violence grant program will answer questions from a legislative panel next week, her lawyer said Tuesday.

Barbara Shaw, the one-time director of the Illinois Violence Prevention Authority is regarded as a pivotal witness with firsthand knowledge of the preparation and roll-out of the $54.5 million grant program that is now under criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in Springfield and Chicago.

Prepared by the Illinois Policy Institute




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