The dirty cop managed to get them to explain not only how they put in the fix but also to reveal they had been taking bribes in exchange for property tax breaks for at least two years.
He even helped them work out their illicit code for referring to cash bribes. When they wanted a cash payment, defendant Thomas Hawkins suggested they say: “Let’s go to lunch, bring some lettuce.” The conspirators agreed to keep a “lettuce fund.”
The new arrests came on the heels of Tuesday’s roundup of seven individuals accused of paying kickbacks in exchange for government grants — most of them connected in some way to former state Sen. Rickey Hendon of Chicago.
The latest case also has Hendon connections. Former Hendon campaign treasurer Dean Nichols, an Oak Park accountant who was charged in the grant kickback scheme, is also alleged to have served as the go-between for the dirty cop and the bribe-taking tax appeals analysts. In addition, Hendon formerly worked at the Board of Review under Rogers. Neither of them could be reached for comment.
Both cases resulted from ruses engineered by the dirty cop, who like most of the best undercover moles really is dirty.
Although not currently facing any charges, prosecutors say the mole will likely be charged in the future with attempted extortion and firearms-related offenses stemming from a July 2008 arrest.
While his name has yet to be revealed, court documents indicate that in the early 1990s he managed a bar owned by Nichols, and his family owned an auto-repair business for which Nichols was the accountant.
The police officer has told authorities he and Nichols once offered a $10,000 bribe to a former Chicago alderman for a Police Department promotion. The former alderman has confirmed the offer, investigators say, but both he and the cop say no payment was made nor promotion received. Now there’s an upset.
The big question is how many other corruption cases the mole has helped investigators make.
It would be disappointing if those nine arrests were all that federal investigators had to show for such an extensive undercover effort. The simple fact authorities left their informant in play for nearly four years after uncovering evidence of systemic and pervasive corruption in the property tax appeal process (the bribes were in 2008) would seem to confirm they are aiming higher.
As this plays out, we might start asking whether this guy is the best mole since John Christopher in Silver Shovel or Michael Raymond, a k a Burnett, in Operation Incubator — two guys who were so bent by nature that they made perfectly believable undercover operatives for catching corrupt public officials.
Please don’t get this mole confused with the other undercover mole who recently surfaced in the investigation involving former Cook County Joseph Mario Moreno and previously convicted Ald. Ambrosio Medrano.
That mole, a Bridgeport businessman with tax problems, has been out there wired up by the feds for two years, which raises intriguing possibilities on its own.
It also makes you wonder what would happen if two undercover moles working separate probes crossed paths.