Federal prison for 'ringmaster' in giant Chicago fraud case involving politically connected black figures in Obama's circle
How bad is political corruption in Chicago? A sentence handed down yesterday in a case involving theft of grant money gives some indication. The people involved had serious political “clout” (a great Chicago political word) in the city chosen by Barack Obama as his political home. Let’s start with the account by John O’Connor of the Associated Press:
A Chicago businessman convicted of pocketing nearly $3 million in state grants funds was sentenced to six years in prison Monday after a federal prosecutor declared that Illinois government corruption "seems to be the norm anymore, rather than the exception."
U.S. District Judge Richard Mills imposed the sentence — short of the eight years the government requested — on Leon Dingle Jr. for his role in a six-year fraud involving Illinois Department of Public Health funds. He was also ordered to pay $2.9 million in restitution.
After a sentencing hearing lasting more than two hours, Mills ordered Dingle's wife, Karin, to spend three years in prison for her role in the scheme. The 78-year-old Leon Dingle was convicted last December of 17 counts of conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering. Karin Dingle, 76, was convicted on six counts.
The Dingles were ordered to report to federal officials within 90 days.
Here is a picture of the fun couple.
You want clout?
Mills took into consideration 55 letters of support for Leon Dingle, including from U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, a Chicago Democrat and uncle of a co-defendant in the case, and Alphonso Jackson, secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President George W. Bush. The judge noted that Dingle became wealthy by investing in a cable television company and spent years in health care and doing charitable work.
Dingle had another source of clout: inviting into his scheme the relatives of powerful Chicagoans. From Monique Garcia of the Chicago Tribune:
In March 2014, a jury convicted Jeri Wright of multiple counts in a previous money laundering trial. She is the daughter of President Barack Obama's former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who was not accused of wrongdoing. (snip)
Prosecutors said the scheme stretched from 2004 to 2010 and ultimately spread around more than $5 million of about $11 million in grants to a half-dozen people. That included the Dingles, Kilpatrick and the state public health agency's onetime chief of staff, Quinshaunta Golden, who has pleaded guilty in the case and played a large role in distributing the grants.
Golden is the niece of Democratic U.S. Rep. Danny Davis and former chief of staff to Eric Whitaker, who served as the public health agency's director until late 2007. Whitaker, a longtime friend of Obama.
And where did the money come from, and where did it go? From the AP:
The grants, totaling $11 million, were meant to go toward AIDS awareness and to provide for cervical, breast and other types of cancer screening and education in minority and other underprivileged communities. They were no-bid, upfront-funded grants. Trial evidence showed the Dingles used not-for-profit organizations as straw grantees to solicit the grants and used millions to finance a lavish lifestyle: luxury cars; renovations of vacation homes in Savannah, Georgia, and Hilton Head, South Carolina; yacht-club expenses; and copious family gifts, including a $95,000 payment on their son's mortgage.
So a bunch of Obama’s Chicago buddies stole millions from taxpayers intended to go to worthy causes and used it for living large? There’s no particular reason why the national media should be interested, I guess.