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8 charged in $1.6M theft scheme involving Cook County

Friday, January 25, 2008
Chicago Sun-Times

Three Cook County government employees and five others have been charged with stealing as much as $1.6 million, including more than $500,000 from taxpayers.

The county workers accused in the fraud scheme are employees of Cook County Board President Todd Stroger's job training program, known as the President’s Office of Employment Training, or POET.

The three employees are Roberto Rivera, Ronald Harper and Rudolph Sanchez. Each held high-ranking positions in POET. Rivera and Harper appeared in court this afternoon, while Sanchez awaits extradition from New Mexico, prosecutors said.

Others charged include Charles Koen, a convicted felon who is pastor of Christian Hope Church in Chicago; and Alex Brooks, a reverend there, prosecutors said.

Also charged are Joyce Norfleet and Dorothy Taylor, employees at what prosecutors say was a shell company set up by Koen.

One county employee was led from his office Thursday in handcuffs. That employee, who worked in the POET office, submitted his resignation after his arrest, sources said.

The county POET office gets millions of dollars in county, state and federal funds to provide job training.

In 2005, POET fiscal manager Shirley Glover was charged with stealing more than $180,000 from the agency. Described by prosecutors as “unqualified” and “inept,” she was hired at the urging of top county patronage chiefs despite having 10 previous felony convictions for crimes including theft. Records showed she never formally applied for the job and was hired by ex-Board President John Stroger.

State’s Attorney Richard Devine said then there were a “lack of controls” and “significant looseness” in oversight of POET funds — concerns that led state officials to label the county POET program as “high-risk,” meaning no funds could be withdrawn without state approval.

Glover remains free on bail after pleading not guilty. She last appeared in court on Wednesday.


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