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Two former Cook County employees guilty in bribery case

Updated: December 1, 2013 7:16AM

Two Cook County employees who took bribes to lower property tax bills were convicted on all four counts connected to the scam Monday.

Thomas Hawkins, 49, and John Racasi, 52, snagged a $1,500 bribe to use their jobs at the Cook County Board of Review to lower the taxes on three homes in 2008.

They were caught after a dirty Chicago cop who was working with the feds to try to limit his own jail time, Ali Haleem, secretly recorded them accepting the cash and boasting how they’d rig the property tax appeal system in return.

Hawkins showed little emotion after the verdict was announced, but Racasi became tearful and hugged his attorney, Heather Winslow.

Jurors deliberated for just one extra hour Monday morning after going home Friday night without reaching a verdict at the end of the week-long trial.

Though Hawkins and Racasi are small fry, the case attracted wider interest because both repeatedly implicated Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios in secretly recorded conversations played during the trial, claiming he was “in cahoots” with the scam.

Berrios, who was a Board of Review Commissioner at the time, angrily denied that last week, calling it “bull----,” and both defendants’ attorneys claimed that Hawkins and Racasi were simply “blowing smoke” by falsely claiming access to and influence over Berrios.

Prosecutors also said during closing arguments that the defendants didn’t want Berrios or their boss, Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr., to know about the bribes.

Both Hawkins and Racasi face a statutory maximum of 55 years in prison when they are sentenced Feb., 25, though far shorter sentences are expected.


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