The U.S. attorney in Chicago charged seven defendants with corruption on Tuesday, including Dean Nichols, a former treasurer of the campaign committee for a an ex-Illinois state Sen. Rickey Hendon and two Cook County corrections officers.
According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Nichols and six others were "arrested and charged with bribery conspiracy for allegedly paying kickbacks to a purported federal agency official, who did not actually exist, in return for awarding purported $25,000 cash grants from the agency."
Of the defendants, two were Cook County Sheriff’s Department corrections officers, who allegedly believed that they could get $25,000 grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in exchange for $5,000 kickbacks to the fictitious HHS official and others, according to the government.
A witness cooperating with the investigation allegedly told Nichols, he had “run into a friend” who was working for HHS and had authority to hand out multiple $25,000 grants “like candy,” according to a release from the U.S. attorney's office here. Nichols allegedly brought Reggi Hopkins, Elliott Kozel and Anthony Johnson into the scheme.
Kozel, a Cook County corrections officer, allegedly reached out to his supervisor, Mary Smith, along with Bryant Jessup and Regina Hollie about the scheme, according to the government.
Further, Nichols and Kozel allegedly provided the witness with dozens of completed grant applications. Among those were applications for Johnson’s organization, Children At Risk, and Jessup’s organization, the J.A.M.A. Center NFP. According to prosecutors, state records show that both organizations received $65,000 in Illinois state grants from 2006 to 2008.
Nichols, 62, of Oak Park, was charged with three counts of bribery conspiracy, and Kozel, 51, Chicago, was charged with four counts. Hopkins, 43, of Chicago; Johnson, 59, of Chicago; Smith, 54, of South Holland; Hollie, 48, of Chicago; and Jessup, 51, of Chicago, were each charged with one count of bribery conspiracy. Each count of conspiracy to commit bribery carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine, according to the Justice Department.