Former Cook County Forest Preserve District Engineer Charged with Accepting $10,000 in Kickbacks from Two District Contracts
|U.S. Attorney’s Office October 31, 2013|
CHICAGO—Two facilities of the Forest Preserve District of Cook County, which were spruced up in 2011, became part of an FBI sting investigation that resulted in federal charges against a former assistant engineer for allegedly taking $10,000 in kickbacks from two contracts he steered to a contractor who was cooperating with law enforcement. The defendant, Joseph Mollica, was indicted yesterday on two counts of federal bribery, law enforcement officials announced today.
Mollica, 52, of Elmwood Park, will be arraigned next Wednesday in U.S. District Court. He was released on his own recognizance after he was arrested on October 3 and charged initially in a criminal complaint. Mollica was an assistant engineer for the Forest Preserve District for more than 20 years until last week, and he and others had authority to influence and award contracts for work under $25,000.
Together, the indictment and complaint allege that on October 14, 2011, Mollica accepted a $6,000 kickback from a $24,900 contract to refinish and refurbish the Forest Preserve District’s headquarters building, where he worked, located at 536 N. Harlem Ave. in River Forest. On December 16, 2011, he allegedly accepted a $4,000 kickback from a $16,500 contract to power wash and stain the building and boardwalk and do caulking at the Sand Ridge Nature Center in Calumet City.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of $10,000 in alleged kickback payments.
In both instances, a cooperating individual, a construction company owner who recorded conversations and meetings with Mollica in which the contracts were arranged and the kickbacks were paid, appeared to perform the work properly and completely, according to the complaint affidavit of an FBI agent. The kickback payments occurred after the Forest Preserve District paid the cooperating individual for the work that was performed.
The charges were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Shields, Jr., Acting Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Each count of federal bribery carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Hotaling.
An indictment contains merely charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.