WBEZ | Cook County state's attorney http://www.wbez.org/tags/cook-county-states-attorney Latest from WBEZ Chicago Public Radio en Attorneys for Burge police torture victims don't trust Alvarez to be fair http://www.wbez.org/news/attorneys-burge-police-torture-victims-dont-trust-alvarez-be-fair-103846 <p><p>Attorneys for Burge torture victims say Cook County State&rsquo;s Attorney Anita Alvarez has a conflict of interest when it comes to reviewing Burge cases. &nbsp;</p><p>The attorneys filed a class action lawsuit seeking hearings for Burge victims to see if their claims of torture are credible in light of what we now know about the tactics of former Chicago Police Commander Jon Burge. &nbsp;<br /><br />Attorney Flint Taylor said Alvarez is too close to the scandal to be objective even though most of the police torture took place decades ago.<br /><br />&ldquo;Well, you have to remember that there was a continuing cover-up and refusal to prosecute from the state&rsquo;s attorney&rsquo;s office during the entire tenure of Richard Devine, and during that entire tenure Anita Alvarez was an important figure in that office,&rdquo; said Taylor.<br /><br />Taylor said the court should do what they&rsquo;ve done in previous Burge matters, appoint a special prosecutor to represent the state.<br /><br />Paul Castiglione with the state&rsquo;s attorney&rsquo;s office said they&rsquo;ll look at the allegations that the office has a conflict of interest and file a response with the court by mid-December.</p></p> Wed, 14 Nov 2012 14:10:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/news/attorneys-burge-police-torture-victims-dont-trust-alvarez-be-fair-103846 Easy path to re-election for Cook County state's attorney http://www.wbez.org/story/easy-path-re-election-cook-county-states-attorney-95130 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2012-January/2012-01-03/anita alvarez - Getty file.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County's top prosecutor is likely to breeze into a second term.&nbsp;Anita Alvarez has no opponent in the March Democratic primary.</p><p>Four years ago, it wasn't like this.&nbsp;</p><p>Anita Alvarez was one of six Democrats running to replace Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine.&nbsp;In a 2008 primary election night surprise, she eked out a win by a margin of less than 0.7 percent, before cruising to victory in November to become Cook County's first woman - and first Hispanic - state's attorney.</p><p>Alvarez's quest for a second term looks to be much less dramatic.&nbsp;No Republicans and no other Democrats filed paperwork to get on the ballot.</p><p>That's not to say everyone in her party is wholeheartedly backing her.&nbsp;Some African American Democratic leaders questioned some of Alvarez's prosecutorial decisions, and complained she was not visible enough at party events.</p><p>Still, no challengers developed.</p><p>The path is also clear for another Democrat seeking countywide office.&nbsp;State Rep. Karen Yarbrough of Maywood is the only candidate running for Recorder of Deeds. The office&nbsp;handles property documents like mortgage filings and tax liens.</p><p>"This office is a small office. It's pretty obscure," Yarbrough said. "For the most part people don't really understand what it does. And so I'm not really sure that there's a whole lot of interest."</p><p>At least two other Democrats were interested in the recorder's office, but dropped out around the same time Yarbrough sewed up party support.</p><p>Yarbrough said she wants to increase the office's responsibilities. The job could be a springboard for her: past recorders include Illinois Secretary of State Jesse White and ex-U.S. Sen. Carol Moseley Braun.</p><p>The incumbent recorder since 1999, Eugene "Gene" Moore, has opted not to seek another term.</p><p>Since no Republicans filed for either state's attorney or recorder, Alvarez and Yarbrough would be on the November ballot alone if the Cook County GOP does not appoint a nominee over the summer. Independents or third-party candidates could also file paperwork then, but they would have to collect many more signatures than are required of major party candidates.</p></p> Fri, 30 Dec 2011 06:00:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/easy-path-re-election-cook-county-states-attorney-95130 State's Attorney files criminal charges for 2010 South-Side blaze http://www.wbez.org/story/states-attorney-files-criminal-charges-2010-south-side-blaze-95095 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-December/2011-12-22/firefighters killed memorial AP MSG.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County prosecutors are seeking criminal contempt charges against the owner of a Chicago building where two firefighters died last year after the roof collapsed in a fire.</p><p>Chuck Dai, 62, of South Holland, Ill. is charged with decidedly failing to comply with a 2009 agreed-to court order to repair and secure his vacant south side building, previously used as laundromat.</p><p>“Given the tragic series of events and the grave circumstances of the loss of these two dedicated first responding firefighters, as well as the injury of so many other of their colleagues, I feel very strongly that a criminal sanction is required and appropriate in this case,” Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez said in a press conference on Wednesday.</p><p>According to a 2007 complaint filed by the City of Chicago, an investigator cited Dai and his brother, Richard, with 14 building code violations, noting problems with the then-vacated building’s roof and support structures. The complaint alleges the roof and roof trusses of the building were “rotted, had holes and were leaking.”</p><p>After failed court appearances and a $14,000 fine, Dai negotiated an agreement in 2009 with the court requiring that he bring his building into compliance with the city’s municipal code by November 2010 in exchange for reducing the fine.</p><p>On Dec. 22, 2010 – almost two months after Dai was ordered to have the building up to city standards - the roof collapsed as firefighters were attempting to contain a blaze, killing Edward Stringer, 47, and Corey Ankum, 34, and injuring 14 others.</p><p>“There was a court order that was entered. He [Dai] was present when the court order was entered. He signed it, he agreed to it, to repair the necessary violations, and it was never abided by,” said Alvarez.</p><p>Alvarez estimated there are 18,000 vacant residences in Chicago, as well 1,500 open and unsecured commercial buildings. She said criminal charges against those who don’t maintain their property are not filed routinely, but that it is an option the city can take.</p><p>Dai’s attorney, Gene Murphy, said the State's Attorney's office has no proof that Dia willfully ignored the court order to fix his property.</p><p>"There are just horrible accidents that kind of defy definition and defy logic, and they're just that," Murphy said. "They're horrible accidents, and that's what we believe this is."</p><p>Dai is scheduled to appear in court next week. The State's Attorney's office wants Dai to serve jail time.</p></p> Wed, 21 Dec 2011 22:11:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/states-attorney-files-criminal-charges-2010-south-side-blaze-95095 Candidates submit petitions for next year's Cook County elections http://www.wbez.org/story/candidates-submit-petitions-next-years-cook-county-elections-94402 <p><p>Candidates running for Cook County offices on next year's ballot began filing their petitions on Monday.</p><p>Three county-wide offices are up for election in 2012, including the State's Attorney and the Circuit Court Clerk</p><p>Clerk David Orr said early filings indicate those three races might be less competitive than in previous years, but he says some potential candidates may be waiting to cut down on the time opponents have to contest signatures.</p><p>"The law clearly says you can challenge someone's petitions," said Orr. "In Illinois that's become an extremely wild art form, and tens of thousands of dollars trying to knock each other off the ballot."</p><p>Candidates have until Dec. 5 to file nomination petitions to run in the March 20 primary. They have to file any objections to those petitions in the next two weeks.</p></p> Mon, 28 Nov 2011 20:56:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/candidates-submit-petitions-next-years-cook-county-elections-94402 Venture: Mortgage fraudsters hatch post-bubble schemes http://www.wbez.org/story/venture-mortgage-fraudsters-hatch-post-bubble-schemes-90567 <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/photo/2011-August/2011-08-13/IMAG1092.jpg" alt="" /><p><p>A lot has changed since the housing crash began. But one thing's still the same. Even though banks have tightened lending, and new regulations are in place, scammers are still finding ways to cheat the system.</p><p>Emilio Carrasquillo is giving me a grim kind of tour in the Back of the Yards neighborhood.</p><p>CARRASQUILLO: Another foreclosure across the street. So you have what, three, four, five foreclosures on this one block.</p><p>This South Side neighborhood is dear to Carrasquillo. He heads the local office here for the non-profit Neighborhood Housing Services of Chicago. He keeps an eye on real estate listings, and last year he started noticing something strange.</p><p>Buildings were selling for crazy amounts of money.</p><p>In a neighborhood where banks were unloading properties for $20,000 or $30,000, all of a sudden, buildings were going for 10 or 15 times that. Like this one: A bank sold this boarded-up, graffiti-tagged two-flat for about $35,000 in February 2009 and then:</p><p>CARRASQUILLO: It was sold in November of 09 for $315,000 and it went into foreclosure right away, seven months afterwards.</p><p>But wait: This round of sales and foreclosures happened after the housing bubble burst. Are banks really falling for this all over again? Turns out Carrasquillo is as surprised as I am.</p><p>CARRASQUILLO: How can this be happening again? Who did the appraisal on this? How is it worth $355,000, $370,000, $350,000, $345,000? Where are these prices coming from?</p><p>So his housing agency turned over the suspicious transactions to the authorities. People like this guy.</p><p>PAUL HOLDEMAN: Paul Holdeman, supervisory special agent with the FBI.</p><p>Holdeman won't comment on the cases Carrasquillo discovered, but says loan fraud like what occurred during the housing boom has definitely continued since the crash. People find straw buyers who submit fake employment information to banks to qualify for big mortgages. Appraisers jack up the values of buildings and once one sells for an inflated amount, it's easy to justify other ones in the neighborhood at similar prices. The straw buyers never make a payment and the place goes into foreclosure, keeping it unoccupied for months or maybe years.</p><p>But I asked Holdeman to tell me about new schemes his agents are seeing.</p><p>HOLDEMAN: Now with the downturn in the market, we also see foreclosure rescue schemes which people are taking advantage of individuals in dire straits. And we also see things like short sale frauds, where people are finding themselves underwater, trying to get out of that property so going back to the banks and selling the property for less than what they owe on the mortgage and engaging in fraud schemes there to again extract money from financial institutions.</p><p>GROSS: So what are they doing? How does short sale fraud work?</p><p>HOLDEMAN: With a short sale fraud - oftentimes they'll go to a real estate agent to help them sell the property. The real estate agent may get certain offers. Let's say they have 3 offers. Let's say they get one for $150,000, one for $175,000 and one for $200,000. They may go to the bank that holds the original mortgage note and tell them, hey, we have an offer for $150,000, that's the best we have. So the bank says, we'll review it, all right we'll go ahead and sell it for $150,000. Then that agent knows they have someone who wanted it for $200,000, they can turn around and work it out to sell it for that after the fact. It all involves deflated appraisals, inflated appraisals and kickbacks behind the scenes and essentially individuals who are not exercising their fiduciary duty and making false statements to the banks.</p><p>GROSS: So in that case the bank is not putting out a lot of money in a mortgage - they're accepting a lot less money than they're due?</p><p>HOLDEMAN: Exactly. That's exactly what's going on.</p><p>I asked Holdeman why he thinks banks would fall for overinflated appraisals nowadays. They've made it harder for your average Joe Schmoe to get a loan, so what's going on? He says it's often out-of-state banks that make decisions based mostly on appraisals and loan applications that may be fraudulent, but look good enough to pass muster.</p><p>I called Wells Fargo, the bank that made the $315,000 dollar mortgage on the rundown property Carrasquillo pointed out to me. I asked them, what were they thinking? Why did they make that loan? They wouldn't say.</p><p>But they said they reviewed it earlier this year and found a number of problems with the paperwork on that property. So they told the authorities.</p><p>And there are a lot of authorities working on mortgage fraud - everyone from the FBI and the Department of Justice to the Illinois attorney general and the Cook County state's attorney. Matthew Jannusch, an assistant Cook County state's attorney assigned to the mortgage fraud unit, described some other kinds of schemes they're seeing. One that seems surprising in its audacity involves people submitting fraudulent title documents for bank-owned properties to the Cook County Recorder of Deeds. Then they break the lock and rent the place out, collecting rent until the bank finally figures out what's going on and gets the paperwork fixed.</p><p>Here's an excerpt of the conversation with Matthew Jannusch on the new kinds of post-bubble schemes they're seeing:</p><p><audio class="mejs mediaelement-formatter-identified-1332483594-1" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/story/insert-image/2011-august/2011-08-13/jannusch-edit.mp3">&nbsp;</audio><br> <br> For his part, Emilio Carrasquillo of Neighborhood Housing Services says he's just tired of watching his communities manipulated like some kind of monopoly game. He says, look at that woman over there who's mowing her grass. She loses out because the buildings around hers are vacant and falling apart all because some people are using them to bilk money out of banks.</p><p>CARRASQUILLO: You look at all these regulations and restrictions they've put on everyone from banks to loan originators and yet this continues to happen. Obviously something is wrong, something is amiss.</p><p>Law enforcement may be making some headway, though. A new mortgage fraud risk report by a company called Interthinx says, in recent months, for the first time in more than a year, none of Chicago's zip codes were among the top ten most at risk for mortgage fraud in the country.</p><p>Still, Paul Holdeman of the FBI has no illusions his job is done. He says real estate is one of those areas where people will always be dreaming up new ways to exploit the system.</p><p>And now for this week's windy indicator, where we take a road less traveled to evaluate the economy.</p><p>Today: Hostels, that low-cost lodging for travelers.</p><p>Mike Haney&nbsp; runs a real estate investment company called&nbsp; Newcastle Limited. He says the lodging industry was thriving when his company bought Getaway Hostel in Lincoln Park four years ago.</p><p>HANEY: End of 2007, beginning of 2008, of course, as the financial crisis really started to unfold, we found that business dropped off here as it did for all lodging properties in Chicago and elsewhere.</p><p>But in 2010, things started to turn around. He says in the last year, more people are traveling - an early sign they're feeling more confident in the economy, even if companies aren't.</p><p>HANEY: We saw an uptick in our business before hotels saw an uptick. Individuals who make decisions to travel can make those decisions much more quickly than businesses typically do.</p><p>Haney says bookings at Getaway Hostel are up 40 percent since early 2010. The day I was there, backpackers seemed to check in constantly and groups of Spanish, German and Asian travelers sat around chatting.</p><p>Mat Meadows, the guy who manages the hostel day-to-day, says the spike in activity includes some atypical guests, like families and professionals in town for conferences. About half of them forgo the bunk beds and spring for private rooms.</p><p>Next week, the windy indicator goes to the opera.</p></p> Mon, 15 Aug 2011 05:00:00 -0500 http://www.wbez.org/story/venture-mortgage-fraudsters-hatch-post-bubble-schemes-90567 Cook County to pay $55 million to inmates at county jail http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-pay-55-million-jail-inmates <img typeof="foaf:Image" src="http://llnw.wbez.org/Dart.JPG" alt="" /><p><p>Cook County is paying out $55 million to people who were strip searched while being processed into the county jail.&nbsp;</p><p>The settlement follows a trial from the summer of 2009 in which a jury found that the Cook County Sheriff's department violated the rights of thousands of prisoners admitted to the jail. The department had a practice of strip searching all incoming inmates, and those searches took place in an open hallway, filled with men standing naked, shoulder to shoulder. Cavity searches were also performed on all the men in that same crowded hallway.<br> <br> The $55 million settlement will be split among 250,000 prisoners subjected to the searches between 2004 and 2009. In a written statement Sheriff Tom Dart said, "<font>The vast majority of this money will go to the lawyers and not the detainees. In fact, the amount each detainee could actually see is very small – in most cases, just a few hundred bucks – compared to the millions and millions of taxpayer dollars that will be reaped by these lawyers." </font></p><p>Dart also said that over the last two years they've installed body scanners which largely eliminate the need for strip searches so that they're done only when the scanners raise a concern.<br> <br> The Cook County State's attorneys office was not immediately available for comment.</p></p> Tue, 16 Nov 2010 21:39:00 -0600 http://www.wbez.org/story/cook-county-pay-55-million-jail-inmates