Former Cook County Official Sentenced to 51 Months in Prison for Steering Contracts in Return for Nearly $35,000 in Kickbacks
|U.S. Attorney’s Office March 21, 2014|
CHICAGO—A Cook County official was sentenced today to 51 months in federal prison for steering four county contracts, each just under $25,000, to four acquaintances and then taking a portion of the contract payments as kickbacks from each of them, totaling $34,700. The defendant, Eugene Mullins, who was director of the Cook County Department of Public Affairs and Communications between March 2008 and November 2010, was sentenced after being convicted of three counts of wire fraud and four counts of bribery at trial last September in U.S. District Court.
Mullins, 50, of Chicago, a former Chicago police officer, was also ordered to pay restitution and forfeiture, both in the amount of $34,700. He was ordered to begin serving his sentence on June 19 by U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve.
“Public corruption does not pay and has significant consequences,” Judge St. Eve said in imposing the sentence after finding that Mullins obstructed justice by committing perjury in his testimony at trial.
The four individuals who received county contracts and returned a portion of the payments to Mullins were each charged with misprision of a felony for concealing Mullins’ fraud and kickback scheme. Each of them entered into pretrial diversion agreements and were placed on probation, were ordered to pay full restitution to the county, and testified as government witnesses at Mullins’ trial. They are Gary Render, Michael L. Peery, and Clifford Borner, all of Chicago, and Kenneth Gregory Demos, of Oak Park.
Evidence at Mullins’ trial showed that between January 2010 and January 2011, he used his county position to submit and cause others to submit false documents to the county to assist the four vendors in obtaining professional and managerial service contracts and payment from the county. Mullins then solicited the individuals who obtained contracts for payments from the proceeds for his own benefit.
Cook County contracts for professional and managerial services under $25,000 required approval only by the county purchasing agent and did not require approval by the county Board of Commissioners. In 2010, Mullins’ public affairs and communications department, as well as other county departments, had access to federal funds and county money to promote awareness and increase response rates by county residents for the 2010 U.S. Census, to promote awareness and assist residents impacted by floods in 2008 and to promote and increase energy efficiency and conservation.
During 2010, Mullins schemed to fraudulently steer the following contracts: a $24,980 disaster grant contract to Render, who paid Mullins $9,000; a $24,985 energy grant contract to Peery, who paid Mullins $12,000; a $24,995 census contract to Borner, who paid Mullins $5,000; and a $24,997 census contract to Demos, who paid Mullins $8,700.
Evidence also showed that Mullins told the individuals who received the contracts that he could arrange for a subcontractor to perform some of the work in exchange for a portion of the county payments they received. In fact, the money that Mullins received from the individuals was not used for any subcontracts. Instead, Mullins used it for his own benefit, while Render, Peery, Borner, and Demos performed little or no work for the county.
The sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Holley, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney; and Patrick Blanchard, Cook County Inspector General.
The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Lindsay Jenkins and Sarah E. Streicker.