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Press Release

Former Cook County Land Bank Authority Employee Sentenced to a Year in Federal Prison for Scheming To Fraudulently Purchase and Resell Properties

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of Illinois

CHICAGO — A former employee of the Cook County Land Bank Authority (CCLBA) has been sentenced to a year in federal prison for using “straw buyers” to fraudulently purchase and resell properties from the agency on his behalf.

MUSTAFAA SALEH, 37, of Chicago, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a wire fraud charge.  U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood imposed the year-and-a-day prison sentence during a hearing Friday in federal court in Chicago.

The sentence was announced by Morris Pasqual, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Machelle L. Jindra, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General in Chicago, and Robert W. “Wes” Wheeler, Jr., Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI.  Valuable assistance was provided by the Office of Special Inspector General for Troubled Asset Relief Program, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, Cook County Office of Independent Inspector General, and the Federal Housing Finance Agency’s Office of Inspector General.  The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Sean Franzblau and Kirsten Moran, and Special Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Netols.

Saleh worked as an asset manager for the CCLBA, a governmental entity that promoted the redevelopment and reuse of vacant, foreclosed, abandoned, and tax delinquent real estate by acquiring and transferring the property to private ownership.  The CCLBA sold the real estate at below-market rates and prohibited the buyers from selling or renting a property until the CCLBA was satisfied that the buyer had adequately improved it.  CCLBA employees were prohibited from purchasing a property from the agency unless it would be used for the employee’s primary residence.

From 2016 to 2021, Saleh used nominee or “straw” buyers to fraudulently purchase six properties from the CCLBA on Saleh’s behalf and thereafter redeveloped, resold, and otherwise used the properties for Saleh’s financial benefit.  In some instances, Saleh’s duties at the CCLBA allowed him oversight over the same properties he owned and resold.  The properties were located in Chicago and the nearby suburbs of Oak Lawn and Midlothian.

In addition to the property fraud scheme, Saleh fraudulently obtained maintenance work from the CCLBA.  In 2016, Saleh formed a property maintenance company called Evergreen Property Services and directed another individual to pose as its owner.  Over the next three years, Saleh caused the CCLBA to contract with Evergreen and pay it more than $1 million for property maintenance services, even though CCLBA employees were prohibited from having a financial interest in property maintenance companies contracting with the agency.

Updated December 18, 2023

Financial Fraud
Public Corruption