Former Cook County Commissioner Moreno Sentenced To 11 Years In Prison For Series Of Public Corruption Schemes
CHICAGO — Former Cook County Commissioner JOSEPH MARIO MORENO was sentenced today to 11 years in federal prison for engaging in a series of public and personal corruption schemes over a span of three years. Moreno pleaded guilty on July 1, 2013, to conspiracy to commit extortion after he was initially charged in late June 2012, about 18 months after he left public office.
Moreno, 61, of Chicago, a lawyer who served more than 16 years as an elected county commissioner until December 2010, was sentenced to 132 months in prison, and he was ordered to forfeit $100,000 and pay a total of more than $138,000 in restitution by U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman. Moreno was ordered to begin serving his sentence on April 21.
“Mr. Moreno was not a reluctant participant in these schemes; he was an eager participant,” Judge Feinerman said, adding that Moreno “embraced them with gusto and pursued them with vigor.”
Moreno “repeatedly pursued his own interests at the expense of those he was supposed to serve. . . . [H]e extorted a reputable business and corrupted the highest levels of Cook County government, the Town of Cicero, and a private hospital. He also evaded taxes and suborned perjury so he could reduce his child support obligations. And when he was confronted about his crimes, he obstructed justice by providing the government with false invoices in an effort to conceal his criminal conduct,” Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher J. Stetler and Megan C. Church wrote in a government sentencing memo.
Notably, they argued, Moreno conceived a motto of governing that captured his corrupt approach to public office: “I don’t want to be a hog. I just want to be a pig. Hogs get slaughtered. Pigs get fat.”
Moreno pleaded guilty to conspiracy to extort an un-named company that was awarded a contract to help improve Cook County Hospital’s revenue cycle into using his friend and codefendant, Ron Garcia, and his business, Chicago Medical Equipment & Supply, Inc., as a minority subcontractor in return for a $100,000 bribe. Garcia forgave a $100,000 mortgage loan to Moreno in exchange for Moreno’s efforts to steer the lucrative sub-contract to Garcia’s company, and Moreno tried to disguise the bribe by claiming that he had repaid the purported loan.
In pleading guilty, Moreno also agreed that he sought to obtain orders of Dermafill bandages from Cook County in return for kickbacks while he and his staffer, co-defendant and former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio Medrano, were Cook County officials; sought to obtain approval for a waste-transfer station in return for kickbacks while a Town of Cicero official; and evaded his federal income taxes between 2007 and 2010 by misreporting the income from his law office.
According to sentencing documents, between 2008 and 2010, Moreno engaged in those schemes, as well as five other schemes to:
- enrich himself through kickbacks in return for passing a “green” resolution while a Cook County Commissioner;
- obtain medical-transcription business from Cook County in return for kickbacks concealed as legal fees;
- obtain orders of Dermafill bandages from a private hospital by bribing a hospital official;
- enrich himself through kickbacks while a Town of Cicero official;
- reduce his child-support obligations by suborning perjury during a court hearing.
Medrano, 60, of Chicago, the former alderman who later worked on Moreno’s county staff, was sentenced last month to a total of 13 years in federal prison after pleading guilty in one case involving Moreno and being convicted at trial last year in a separate corruption case that stemmed from the same FBI undercover investigation.
Garcia, 54, of Homer Glen, and two other co-defendants, Gerald W. Lombardi, 61, of Darien, and his son, Jerry A. Lombardi, 34, of Downers Grove, who were agents of Chasing Lions, LLC, a disabled-veterans-owned business in Lisle that sold the Dermafill bandages, pleaded guilty to their roles in the scheme and are awaiting sentencing. A sixth co-defendant, Stanley Wozniak, 51, of Chicago, is awaiting the disposition of charges.
The Moreno sentence was 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 Federal Bureau of Investigation; and James C. Lee, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.