Feds: Former Todd Stroger aide solicited $34k in kickbacks

August 2, 2012

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Federal prosecutors on Thursday indicted a one-time top aide to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger on charges that he solicited $34,700 or more in kickbacks. Eugene Mullins is only the latest Stroger administration official to face corruption charges.

Mullins was arrested at the police station in south suburban Richton Park, where he works part-time as a community service officer, according to the village manager there, De'Carlon Seewood. Mullins has now been placed on unpaid administrative leave, Seewood said.

The U.S attorney in Chicago charged Mullins on eight counts: four for wire fraud and four for soliciting a kickback. The charges are based on an alleged scheme from 2010, in which Mullins is said to have rigged Cook County’s procurement process to get contracts for his acquaintances.

The indictment said Mullins would then ask those acquaintances for a share of the money to pay other contractors. The feds said that was a lie, and Mullins wound up with the kickbacks.

Lawyer: not guilty

“My client is not guilty and at the end of the day we believe the evidence will prove that," Brunell Donald-Kyei, an attorney for Mullins, said in a brief phone interview.

The four acquaintances were also charged in the indictment. Although there's no indication they initially saw the payments to Mullins as kickbacks, prosecutors said the four knowingly concealed Mullins' illegal actions. Clifford Borner, Kenneth Gregory Demos, Gary Render and Michael Peery each face one federal count.

Peery is an executive producer for WVON-AM talk radio, including the afternoon drive time program, The Cliff Kelley Show, hosted by the former alderman who himself went to prison for corruption in the late 1980s. Peery did not return an email or voicemail left at his office Thursday.

Cook contract troubles

According to the feds, this investigation was tied to earlier corruption charges filed by Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez against Carla Oglesby, another former top aide for Todd Stroger. Like with Mullins, Oglesby is accused of exploiting a loophole in the county's procurement process at the time that left little oversight for contracts under $25,000.

In an apparently unrelated probe, a former top official with a Cook County job training program, Brendolyn Hart-Glover, was arrested last month on federal charges that she schemed to falsify documents in 2009 and 2010.

Stroger was county board president from 2006 to 2010. His voicemail was full on Thursday and he did not respond to a text message requesting comment on Mullins' arrest.

A former Cook County employee who served under Mullins in the communications department said "it's about time" when asked about the indictment. Chris Geovanis has said she was a whistleblower in the case against Oglesby, but said Thursday she has not been interviewed by the feds.

"I'm happy to see someone finally publicly prosecuting what was probably an even more sweeping contract scandal than some of us learned when we started looking at it," she said Thursday, describing her work relationship with Mullins as "cordial but distant."

"Criminals and crooks like Gene Mullins undermine that sense of civic mission that the overwhelming majority of county workers have, and that's really a tragedy," Geovanis said.