CHICAGO (AP) — A federal judge has dismissed a public corruption case against a construction contractor even before the end of trial testimony.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly dismissed a charge of wire fraud on Friday against Debra Fazio as part of an alleged $700,000 kickback scheme with the highway commissioner of Bloomingdale Township, near Chicago. Kennelly concluded that prosecutors had not proven that Fazio, who owns Bulldog Earth Movers Inc., knew of the plot or participated in it.
The highway commissioner at the time, Robert Czernek, pleaded guilty in March to one count of honest services wire fraud for accepting $280,000 in kickbacks. He agreed to cooperate with the government in prosecuting Fazio and her boyfriend and co-defendant, Mario Giannini, a longtime Bulldog employee.
The case continues against Giannini.
Czernek testified this week that Giannini proposed the plan a few months after Czernek was appointed highway commissioner in 2012. Bloomingdale Township is about 27 miles west of Chicago.
“He said, ‘We can make some money on this,’” Czernek told jurors.
Czernek said he approved $700,000 in Bulldog invoices during the next eight years for delivering stone, earth-leveling, and storm sewer work. Czernek said he would leave notes in secluded places describing how the invoices should look and Giannini would copy them verbatim.
On cross-examination, defense lawyers got Czernek to admit he had initially misled investigators about his financial dealings and they asked him about the sentencing leniency he hoped to get by cooperating.
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Notes & References
Press, Associated. “Former Suburban Road Commissioner Pleads Guilty in Kickback Scheme.” Chicago Journal. Chicago Journal, March 25, 2022. https://www.chicagojournal.com/former-suburban-road-commissioner-pleads-guilty-in-kickback-scheme/. ↩︎