Chicago Transportation Department Clerk Arrested For Allegedly Embezzling Over $741,000 From City Permit Fees
CHICAGO — A clerk for the City of Chicago’s Department of Transportation (CDOT) was arrested today for allegedly embezzling more than $741,000 from fees that were paid for certain city permits. The defendant, ANTIONETTE CHENIER, a city clerk since 1990, allegedly diverted the funds from checks that were written by companies that applied for and received city permits to block public ways with dumpsters or moving vans.
Chenier, 50, of Homewood, was charged with embezzlement in a criminal complaint that was unsealed following her arrest this morning. She is scheduled to appear at 3 p.m. today before Magistrate Judge Sheila Finnegan in U.S. District Court.
The arrest and charge follow an investigation by the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division, and the City of Chicago Office of Inspector General.
From 1993 through 2005, Chenier was assigned to CDOT, and from 2006 through 2008, she was assigned to the city’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication (OEMC) before being transferred back to CDOT. As a clerk, working in CDOT’s City Hall permitting office, she was involved in processing the moving van and dumpster permit fees.
The city charges a $25 daily fee for a residential moving van and between $50 and $200 (or higher) per dumpster, depending on the size, location, and length of time the dumpster will be on a city street. For several years, companies have been able to apply for permits through a website operated by CDOT. Although CDOT issues the permits and collects payment, the checks are often made payable to OEMC, which previously administered the permit process.
According to the complaint affidavit, bank records show that Chenier opened a personal bank account in August 2008 and a business account at the same bank in March 2009 under the name “OEMC Chenier,” and she was the sole signatory on both accounts. Between August 2008 and January 2014, she allegedly deposited several hundred checks, totaling $741,299, payable to OEMC and other city departments into her personal and business accounts.
In January this year, bank officials noticed Chenier’s unusual banking activity and froze her business account, according to the affidavit.
The arrest and complaint were announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the FBI; James C. Lee, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and Chicago Inspector General Joseph Ferguson.
Embezzlement carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Steven Block.
A complaint contains merely charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendant is presumed innocent and is entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.