CHICAGO - Wednesday, a federal jury convicted a former Cook County official of 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 found guilty after a week-long trial in U.S. District Court.
Mullins, a 49 year old former Chicago police officer, was convicted of three counts of wire fraud and four counts of accepting kickbacks.
Gary Render, Michael L. Peery, and Clifford Borner, all of Chicago, and Kenneth Gregory Demos, of Oak Park 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.
The case stemmed from a state and federal corruption investigation that resulted recently in the state court conviction of Carla Oglesby, a former Cook County official, who also illegally steered county contracts under $25,000.
Mullins 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.
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 kick-backed $9,000 to Mullins; a $24,985 energy grant contract to Peery, who kick-backed $12,000; a $24,995 census contract to Borner, who kicked back $5,000; and a $24,997 census contract to Demos, who kicked back $8,700.
To conceal the scheme, Mullins advised the contract recipients to falsely deny the circumstances surrounding the contracts if questioned by investigators. For example, he advised Peery not to say anything about paying him a portion of the contract in cash and advised Borner to claim ownership of the invoice submitted in support of his census contract.