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Messy past for county cleaners
Ex-owner, in jail for fraud, took mobbed-up money

Monday, March 26, 2007
Chicago Sun-Times
by STEVE WARMBIR AND STEVE PATTERSON

A founder of a janitorial company that recently received a controversial no-bid contract from Cook County took money from mobbed-up companies and is currently in prison for bank fraud.
Julie Leopold was sentenced to 21 months in prison last year for filing false documents in her name and the names of family members to get hundreds of thousands of dollars in bank loans, court records show.
She and her son, Anthony Leopold, also took $179,000 from the son of Cicero's mob boss -- money that was part of the $10 million stolen from the Town of Cicero through a mobbed-up insurance company, evidence in a court case shows.
Daughter says she's at helm
Julie Leopold's daughter, Louann Darrus, said Friday her mother no longer owns the janitorial company, We Clean Maintenance and Supplies Inc. Darrus said she bought the company from her mother in April 2005 -- her mother was charged the following May. Darrus has run the company since buying it, she said.
"I take full responsibility for every action this company has taken since," Darrus said.
Darrus said company filings that showed her mother was still president were mistaken and that the firm's attorney changed them.
She denied ever relying upon her mother's advice since buying the company.
"My mother has nothing to do with it," she said.
Darrus' statement seems to contradict what's contained in a court filing by her mother's lawyers, who were seeking leniency for her from the judge in the case.
"Louann continues to routinely consult with the defendant [her mother] regarding the business," the September 2005 court filing says.
Asked about the filing, Darrus said: "I have no clue about that, sir."
Whoever is running the company, it has done well with government contracts.
Last week, the Cook County Board voted 9-8, on a request by board President Todd Stroger, to approve a no-bid $357,000 contract to We Clean to clean the county building for the next 135 days.
The workers will replace county janitors who were laid off because of budget cuts.
Files: $750,000 in bad loans
We Clean has had the contract to clean the county's Juvenile Court facility since January 2001 and also has a piece of a contract valued up to $160 million for janitorial services for Chicago Public Schools, records show.
The company is no stranger to controversy.
We Clean and other companies linked to Julie Leopold and her family got more than $750,000 in fraudulent loans, thanks to Leopold, who bribed a bank loan officer to get them, court records and evidence shows.
The loan officer, Donald Copeland, estimated he got as much as $200,000 in kickbacks from Leopold, according to testimony in his case, prosecuted by Michelle Nasser Weiss and Sergio Acosta.
Copeland was convicted in October and awaits sentencing.
In the 2002 trial of Cicero Town President Betty Loren-Maltese, Leopold's son, Anthony, testified under immunity from prosecution that he turned to his friend, Michael Spano Jr., for money when We Clean faced a cash crunch. Spano Jr. is the son of the Cicero mob boss at the time.
Spano Jr. dipped into the more than $10 million stolen by a mobbed-up insurance company from the Cicero town coffers, trial evidence showed.
In all, $179,000 in checks were sent to We Clean from November 1993 to December 1995, with some checks going to Anthony Leopold and others going to his mother, evidence showed.
The alleged loan required no collateral or promissory note when the money was handed out, court testimony showed.
By the time of trial in 2002, out of the $179,000, only $78,209 had been paid back, according to court testimony.


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