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WATCHDOGS: Tally in Illinois grant-fraud probe so far: 13 charged, $16M embezzled

Former Country Club Hills Police Chief ReginEvans  |  Sun-Times library

Former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans | Sun-Times library

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Updated: October 10, 2013 6:02AM



The U.S. attorney’s office in Springfield has been busy the past few years investigating a variety of fraud schemes involving state grants. Thirteen people have been charged so far, six who have pleaded guilty.

Two of them have ties to President Barack Obama. One is the daughter of his controversial former pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Another was chief of staff to Obama’s longtime friend Eric E. Whitaker when Whitaker was Illinois’ public health chief.

In all, prosecutors are alleging a total of $16 million in fraud involving state health or commerce department grants and contracts.

Here’s a brief look at each of the criminal cases that have been filed, which prosecutors built with help from the Chicago offices of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and the Internal Revenue Service, as well as from the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office’s inspector general:

Defendants: Margaret A. Davis and Tonja Cook, of the Chicago chapter of the National Black Nurses Association

Filed: June 9, 2011

Charges: Mail fraud and money laundering

Details: Davis pleaded guilty, admitting that, with help from Cook, she siphoned about $500,000 in state grant money for “personal use,” including mortgage and credit-card payments. Cook, who also pleaded guilty, said “thousands of dollars” in grant money under Davis’ control went to pay campaign workers for former state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), who helped Davis win a $460,000 grant in 2006. Hendon hasn’t been charged with any wrongdoing.

Status: Davis to be sentenced Oct. 8; Cook Oct. 15.

Defendants: Former County Club Hills police Chief Regina R. Evans and her husband, Ronald W. Evans Jr., former inspector general for the south suburb

Filed: April 4, 2012

Charges: Conspiracy, wire fraud and money laundering

Details: The Evanses admitted spending about half of a $1.25 million commerce department grant on gifts for family members and friends and to pay off personal debt, including a mortgage on the New Regal Theater on Chicago’s South Side. State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) helped the couple’s not-for-profit organization, We Are Our Brother’s Keeper, get that state grant, which was to be used for a job-training program that was part of theater restoration efforts. Trotter has not been charged.

Status: Regina Evans to be sentenced Oct. 15; Ronald Evans Dec. 2.

Defendants: Regina R. Evans and her brother Ricky McCoy, former executive director of We Are Our Brother’s Keeper

Filed: March 19, 2013

Charges: Money laundering, conspiracy, obstruction of justice and witness tampering

Details: The former County Club Hills police chief and her brother admitted conspiring with an unnamed witness to create a story for investigators that falsely claimed the $1.25 million commerce department grant was used for job training. Her brother also admitted taking part in the money-laundering scheme.

Status: Regina Evans to be sentenced Oct. 15; McCoy Jan. 4.

Defendant: Jeri L. Wright, daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright

Filed: April 10, 2013

Charges: Money laundering and making a false statement before a grand jury

Details: Wright, described as a “close associate and friend” of Regina and Ronald Evans, is accused of aiding the Evanses in their money-laundering scheme.

Status: Trial set for Oct. 16.

Defendants: South Side businessman Leon Dingle Jr., his wife Karin Dingle and associates Jacqueline Kilpatrick and Edward Clemons

Filed: Oct. 4, 2012

Charges: Conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering

Details: Dingle and his wife are accused of siphoning about $3 million in state health grants, using the money to buy $300,000 in certificates of deposit, make a $95,066 mortgage payment and pay for club memberships, among other things. Kilpatrick, a bookkeeper for Leon Dingle, and Clemons allegedly used $700,000 in grant money to maintain a vacation home in Hilton Head, S.C., and to buy a Mercedes-Benz, a Cadillac and a fur coat.

Status: Trial set for Dec. 3.

Defendant: Lloyd Kelly, former executive director of the Let’s Talk, Let’s Test Foundation, an AIDS awareness group

Filed: July 11, 2012

Charge: Mail fraud

Details: Kelly is accused of illegally spending grant money on things including his home and office rent for since-retired state Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago), co-founder of Let’s Talk, Let’s Test.

Status: Trial set for Oct. 1

Defendant: Retired state Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago)

Filed: July 17, 2013

Charge: Mail fraud

Details: The South Side Democrat admitted skimming tens of thousands of dollars from a charity golf outing for “personal and political use, including expenses associated with the promotion of her campaign.”

Status: Sentencing set for Nov. 21.

Defendant: Quinshaunta R. Golden, former Illinois Department of Public Health chief of staff

Filed: Aug. 7, 2013

Charges: Bribery/theft, mail fraud and obstruction of justice

Details: Golden, a niece of U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), is accused of pocketing about $433,000 in kickbacks on health department contracts and grants that she oversaw. Her boss at the time, Obama’s friend Whitaker, has said he is cooperating with the investigation and “had no firsthand knowledge of the activities outlined in [Golden’s] indictment.”

Status: Trial set for Oct. 1.

Email: cfusco@suntimes.com

Twitter: @FuscoChris



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