Forest Preserve worker took $10,000 in bribes to steer contracts: prosecutors
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter October 31, 2013 1:18PM
Updated: December 2, 2013 12:39PM
A Cook County Forest Preserve worker took $10,000 in cash bribes to steer county contracts to an undercover FBI mole, prosecutors say.
Joseph Mollica, 52, of Elmwood Park, said the scam was “easy to hide” in secretly recorded conversations, it’s alleged.
Mollica, who allegedly boasted he once made $12,000 in a single day of crooked work, accepted a $6,000 kickback from a $24,900 contract to fix up the Forest Preserve District’s headquarters in River Forest in October 2011, according to a criminal complaint.
Two months later, he took another $4,000 kickback from a $16,500 contract to maintain the Sand Ridge Nature Center in Calumet City, the feds said.
During the scam, he allegedly told the undercover mole to keep his phone “attached to your ass permanently” so that he could tip the mole off about rival bids for county contracts.
“When I call you, I’m not calling to say ‘Hey, how’s it going blah, blah, blah’ — I’m calling you ‘cause there’s money!’” he allegedly told in the informant.
Mollica, who was indicted on two counts of bribery that carry a maximum possible sentence of 10 years in prison each, is due to enter a plea on Wednesday.
He had worked for the county since 1992 and made $76,000 a year, according to Forest Preserve spokeswoman Karen Vaughan. He has contributed $2,050 to the campaigns of Cook County Commissioner Peter Silvestri, R-Elmwood Park, and a company Mollica once owned gave Silvestri another $1,750, state campaign-finance records show.
Reached by the Sun-Times Thursday night, Silvestri acknowledged he knew Mollica from the Elmwood Park community but said he was unaware of how much Mollica had donated to him over the years.
“I haven’t heard a thing about this and I don’t condone anything like that,” he said, adding that he was a Republican, whereas Mollica has been involved in Democratic Party organizations.
Mollica also made political contributions to Cook County Circuit Court Clerk Dorothy Brown, the 36th Ward Democrats and former 36th Ward Ald. John Rice.
Mollica and his attorney did not return calls.