Federal Indictment Charges UIC Elevator Foreman with Pocketing Bribes to Steer Elevator Work to Private Company
CHICAGO — The elevator foreman at the University of Illinois at Chicago received bribes from the owner of a suburban company in exchange for steering the school’s elevator repair work to it, according to an indictment returned in federal court in Chicago.
The indictment accuses the UIC employee, JAMES HERNANDEZ, of pocketing more than $200,000 in bribes from SUZY TAMRAS-MARTIN, the owner of Willbrook-based Smart Elevators Co. Tamras-Martin concealed the bribes by issuing checks payable to Hernandez’s daughter, and falsely describing the payments in company records as “professional fees,” the indictment states. Hernandez allegedly forged his daughter’s endorsement on the checks and deposited them into a bank account he controlled. The charges allege that Tamras-Martin made the payments with the intent to influence and reward Hernandez in connection with his official duties at UIC, which included the referral of the school’s elevator service and repair work.
The seven-count indictment was returned Tuesday and ordered unsealed today. It charges Hernandez, 54, of Tinley Park, and Tamras-Martin, 68, of Naperville, with one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, and three counts apiece of federal program bribery.
Hernandez was arrested this morning. He pleaded not guilty at an afternoon arraignment before U.S. District Judge Edmond E. Chang and was ordered released on a recognizance bond. An arraignment date for Tamras-Martin has not yet been scheduled.
The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Yasmin N. Best and Rick D. Young.
From 2011 to 2015, UIC paid Smart Elevators more than $5 million for servicing and repairing elevators. The bribery scheme began in April 2013 and continued through at least August 2015, the indictment states. The indictment seeks forfeiture from Hernandez of approximately $208,700 in cash.
The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.
The conspiracy charge is punishable by up to five years in prison, while the maximum sentence for federal program bribery is ten years. If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.