Two Former Cook County Board Of Review Analysts Convicted Of Accepting $1,500 Bribe To Facilitate $10,000 Property Tax Reduction
CHICAGO ― Two former analysts for the Cook County Board of Review were convicted today on federal conspiracy, bribery, and fraud charges for accepting $1,500 to facilitate reducing by more than $10,000 the property taxes on three residential properties identified by an individual who was cooperating with federal agents. The defendants, THOMAS HAWKINS and JOHN RACASI, were captured scheming with others to facilitate reducing property tax assessments in exchange for bribes in undercover recordings that were played at their week-long trial in U.S. District Court. The jury deliberated for a couple of hours Friday before finding both defendants guilty on all counts this morning.
Hawkins was an analyst since December 2004, and Racasi was an analyst since March 2006, and both were on the staff of one of the three Board of Review commissioners in September 2008, when they accepted the $1,500 bribe payment. Each of the three commissioners has analysts who handle residential property tax appeals and at least two of the three commissioners’ analysts must agree in order to reduce the Cook County Assessor’s property tax assessments.
Hawkins, 49, and Racasi, 52, half-brothers and both of Chicago, were convicted of one count each of conspiracy to commit bribery, bribery, mail fraud, and mail fraud conspiracy. They remain free on bond while awaiting sentencing, which U.S. District Judge John Tharp set for 2 p.m. on Feb. 25, 2014.
Mail fraud and mail fraud conspiracy each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison; bribery carries a maximum of 10 years; and conspiracy to commit bribery carries a maximum of five years in prison, and each count carries a $250,000 maximum fine. The Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines.
The guilty verdicts were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Shields, Jr., Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI=s Chicago City Public Corruption Task Force led the investigation with assistance from the Chicago Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division, which is a task force member.
According to the evidence at trial, Ali Haleem, a former Chicago police officer who began cooperating with the FBI in July 2008 and is awaiting sentencing on other federal charges, was introduced to Hawkins, who, in turn, introduced him to Racasi. Haleem recorded numerous meetings and telephone conversations with both defendants in which they discussed facilitating property tax assessment reductions in exchange for bribes.
In September 2008, Haleem, Hawkins and Racasi discussed the specifics of the bribe Haleem would pay for reducing tax assessments on properties in Chicago, Burbank, and Tinley Park. On Sept. 11, 2008, Hawkins and Racasi agreed to reduce the assessed values on properties Haleem owned in Chicago and Burbank, as well as a property in Tinley Park owned by another individual, for three years beginning with the 2008 tax year. Hawkins and Racasi provided Haleem with analysis sheets for these properties, which could be used to calculate the tax savings that a property owner would realize over the three-year period. In return for the $1,500 bribe, Hawkins and Racasi promised Haleem a total tax savings for the three properties over the threeyear period of at least approximately $10,000. The payment was made on Sept. 17, 2008, when Haleem met with Hawkins and Racasi and handed the money to Racasi. Hawkins assured Haleem that Racasi would later provide Hawkins with his share of the money.
Hawkins and Racasi also facilitated a reduction in property tax assessments on 10 condominium units in Chicago, expecting to receive bribe payments that Haleem would collect from the property owners once the reductions were verified.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Margaret J. Schneider and Michael T. Donovan.