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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Friday, March 15, 2019

Owner of Debt Collection Service Charged for Corruptly Providing Benefits to Obtain Business from Cook County Circuit Court Clerk’s Office

CHICAGO — The owner of a debt collection company spent tens of thousands of dollars in an effort to corruptly influence and obtain business from court clerks in Florida and Illinois, including the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk, according to a federal indictment returned in Chicago.

DONALD DONAGHER, JR., 67, of Mechanicsburg, Pa., and Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was the owner and Chief Executive Officer of Harrisburg, Pa.-based PENN CREDIT CORPORATION.  From 2009 to 2016, Donagher and Penn Credit provided money and services to benefit the court clerks and related individuals and entities, corruptly seeking favorable treatment in the awarding of the courts’ debt collection work, the indictment states.  The efforts included payments to certain clerks’ campaign committees, donations to charities supported by certain clerks, financial sponsorship of events hosted by certain clerks, and free or discounted “robocalls” made by Penn Credit on behalf of certain clerks’ campaigns, according to the indictment.  

The indictment was returned Thursday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.  It charges Donagher and Penn Credit with one count of conspiracy to commit federal program bribery, and five counts of federal program bribery.  Arraignment in federal court in Chicago has not yet been scheduled.

The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; Gabriel L. Grchan, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago; and Patrick M. Blanchard, Cook County Inspector General.  The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather K. McShain and Ankur Srivastava.

According to the charges, Donagher in June 2011 caused Penn Credit to pay $5,000 to a scholarship fund named for the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk.  Later that summer, Penn Credit began collecting debt for the Clerk’s Office, the indictment states.  On Aug. 19, 2011 – less than three weeks after Penn Credit began its work for Cook County – Donagher sent an email to Penn Credit employees and an Illinois lobbyist, advising that Donagher had promised the Cook County Clerk “10k of ‘early’ money,” the indictment states.  The following month, Donagher caused a $10,000 contribution to be made in his name “towards the fundraising efforts of Contributions to Friends of [the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk],” the indictment states.  The indictment further states that, several months later, Penn Credit made hundreds of thousands of phone calls on behalf of the Cook County Circuit Court Clerk without invoicing or receiving payment from the Clerk’s campaign. 

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 a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

Topic(s): 
Public Corruption
Updated March 15, 2019