Two Former Cook County Board Of Review Analysts Sentenced To Prison For Accepting A Bribe To Arrange Property Tax Reductions
CHICAGO ― Two former analysts for the Cook County Board of Review were sentenced today for accepting $1,500 to facilitate reducing by more than $10,000 the property taxes on three residential properties. THOMAS HAWKINS was sentenced to 24 months in prison and JOHN RACASI was sentenced to 18 months in prison after they were convicted of federal conspiracy, bribery, and fraud charges. They 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 last October in U.S. District Court.
Hawkins, 50, and Racasi, 53, half-brothers and both of Chicago, were analysts 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.
“Offenses like [these], betray the citizens who pay property taxes in Cook County and who expect the process in place for assessing property values and appealing those property tax assessments to operate fairly and legitimately,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Margaret J. Schneider and Michael T. Donovan, argued at sentencing.
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 11 condominium units in Chicago, expecting to receive bribe payments that Haleem would collect from the property owners once the reductions were verified.
The sentences were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, 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.