CHICAGO (CN) – A former political aide and two jailers are among seven people charged with conspiring to bribe a bureaucrat – actually an undercover FBI agent – to try to get federal grants that supposedly were being handed out “like candy.”
Dean Nichols, 62, former campaign treasurer for former state Sen. Rickey Hendon, was charged in the federal indictment, along with Reggi Hopkins, Anthony Johnson, Bryant Jessup, Regina Hollie, and Cook County Sheriff’s corrections Officers Elliott Kozel and Mary Smith.
A Chicago police officer who was a cooperating witness told Nichols that he had “run into a friend” who worked for the Department of Health and Human Services and could hand out $25,000 grants “like candy” – at a price, according to FBI Agent Brendan O’Leary’s affidavit, attached to the 6-count criminal complaint.
In that conversation, the cooperating witness told Nichols that his friend “only wants fucking, like 10 percent … you know, I mean there’s enough room for all of us,” according to the affidavit. (Ellipsis in affidavit.)
According to the affidavit: “After Nichols asked about the grants, CW [cooperating witness] said that they were for ‘drug rehab.’ Nichols asked if the grants were ’25 minimum or 25 maximum?’ CW answered that they were for ‘25,000 a piece.’ CW said, however, that his friend could issue thirty grants and that ‘He can sign off on ’em.’ Nichols then asked, ‘And he can sign off here?’ CW responded, ‘Yeah.'”
Later in the conversation, “Nichols asked if CW’s friend was ‘White? Black?’ CW responded that he was a ‘white guy.’ Nichols replied, ‘I like him already. Reliable.’,” according to the affidavit.
A couple days later, Nichols met with an undercover FBI agent posing as an employee of a private agency that worked with Health and Human Services to issue grants and agreed to “round up, you know, the people,” to submit grant applications, the affidavit states.
The undercover agent said he wanted “ten percent off the top, which is not, you know, huge … keep things rolling smooth and quick and fast,” according to the affidavit.
Nichols planned to submit 40 applications, give a 10 percent cut to the purported HHS contractor, and keep a 10 percent cut for himself and the cooperating witness, the government claims. Nichols said he and the witness should “get a big summer home” in Michigan together with the money, the affidavit states.
Nichols allegedly provided the undercover agent with grant applications for Edutainment Services, listing Hopkins as president, and Children’s Athletic Program, naming Kozel as president. Johnson, Jessup, Hollie and Smith also submitted applications and paid a kickback totaling $5,000 after receiving the check, the government says.
The cooperating witness, a Chicago police officer, “was arrested [in July 2008] in the course of an investigation of public corruption and gun trafficking occurring in the Chicago area,” according to the affidavit. It continues: “CW is not currently facing any criminal charges, but will likely be charged in the future with attempted extortion and firearms-related offenses. CW has been cooperating with the government since July 2008 in the hopes of a recommendation for a reduced sentence in connection with these potential charges.”
If convicted, each defendant faces up to 5 years in prison and a $250,000 fine for each count of conspiracy to commit bribery.