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Chicago cop was federal ‘mole’ in corruption cases

Ali Haleem Chicago Police officer used his skills as an undercover narcotics officer serve as an informant for feds corrupticase.
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Ali Haleem, a Chicago Police officer, used his skills as an undercover narcotics officer to serve as an informant for feds in a corruption case. On Monday, it was Haleem’s turn. The U.S. attorney’s office charged Haleem with attempted extortion and sellin

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Updated: October 3, 2012 6:06AM



Ali Haleem is the self-proclaimed “Mayor of 63rd Street,” a friendly Chicago cop who offered his expertise to FBI anti-terrorism efforts and worked to build trust between police and the Southwest Side’s Arab community.

But for four years, Haleem also used some of the skills he learned as an undercover narcotics officer to act as a confidential informant for federal investigators probing wide-ranging political corruption, according to sources and public records.

Haleem is the unnamed police officer who was the cooperating witness — the government “mole” — at the center of the federal investigation that resulted in bribery charges leveled last month against nine people, most of them political workers for former state Sen. Rickey Hendon (D-Chicago), the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Haleem, 45, hasn’t been charged with any crime “but will likely be charged in the future with attempted extortion and firearms-related offenses,” according to court records.

Haleem was arrested in July 2008 during what authorities called “an investigation of public corruption and gun-trafficking occurring in the Chicago area.” He has been cooperating with federal agents since then in hopes of receiving a lighter sentence.

During his years as a federal snitch, Haleem secretly wore a wire to produce much of the evidence authorities cited in charging the nine corruption defendants, including Hendon’s former campaign treasurer.

Seven are accused of giving illegal kickbacks for government grants.

In a separate case, two men are accused of taking bribes to fix property-tax appeals cases while they worked for Cook County Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr., who has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

Ties to Rickey Hendon

One of the two accused Board of Review employees also was a political worker for Hendon. In all, six of the nine defendants had ties to Hendon, who resigned from the Illinois Senate last year and has not been charged with any crime.

Even as Haleem worked undercover for federal authorities, he remained on the job with the Chicago Police Department, where he started in 1994. He makes more than $80,000 a year as a cop, according to city payroll data.

Department sources confirm that Haleem remains a police officer but say he has been reassigned to desk duty at the city’s 311 center, stripped of his police powers.

A spokesman of the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago declined to comment about Haleem.

Reached by phone, Haleem also said he didn’t want to talk.

He wasn’t always so publicity-shy. In 2001, a month after the Sept. 11 terror attacks, Haleem spoke with a Sun-Times reporter as president of the Arab American Police Association, saying he and other members of the organization offered their knowledge of the Middle East to the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force in Chicago.

“We want people to know that, as Arab Americans, we condemn what happened Sept. 11 as much as anybody else,” Haleem said then.

Haleem also said he was one of four Arab-American police officers in Chicago assigned to work with Israeli security to protect that nation’s prime minister at an international Jewish convention held in the city in 2000.

Haleem, who is of Palestinian descent, was born in Israel. His family moved to the United States when he was 3. He said in 2001 that he was a member at two mosques — on the Southwest Side and in Bridgeview.

He said his ethnic background helped him “bridge the gap” and act as the police department’s unofficial liaison to the large Arab-American enclave in the Chicago Lawn neighborhood on the Southwest Side.

“We need to let our community know that the police are your friends,” Haleem said in the 2001 interview. “The ladies, dressed up in scarves, can be shy and timid about talking to the police. We let them know they need to communicate with us.”

Secret tapes

Soon, Haleem will be far better known for his secretly taped communications with Dean Nichols, Hendon’s onetime campaign treasurer, and the other defendants in the corruption cases.

According to court records, Haleem told the FBI he’s known Nichols for more than 20 years, meeting when Nichols was the accountant for an auto-repair business owned by Haleem’s family and Nichols owned a bar that Haleem managed in the early 1990s.

Haleem also claimed that he and Nichols offered a former alderman $10,000 to help Haleem get promoted in the police department.

The former alderman — who isn’t identified by name in the court files — confirmed the offer to federal authorities, but they say “neither the payment nor the promotion ever occurred.”

After he was arrested and began working with the feds, Haleem was directed to tell Nichols he had a friend with clout in the federal government. The imaginary friend lived in California and could provide $25,000 grants in exchange for kickbacks. Authorities say Nichols subsequently hooked up Haleem with people willing to pay $5,000 bribes to obtain grants.

In conversations caught on the wiretaps, Nichols repeatedly expressed fears he was being set up.

When Nichols finally got through to Haleem in November 2011 after calling him “12 times,” Nichols said he feared Haleem “was being questioned by the guys at Roosevelt and Western” — referring, according to prosecutors, to the FBI’s Chicago office.

Bribe payers ‘nervous about you’

Another time, in February, Nichols allegedly was recorded telling Haleem he should accompany him to meetings with the grant recipients, saying the bribe payers “are nervous about you . . . because you are a cop. They are afraid you got a wire. You are a part of the scam.”

In 2008, soon after Haleem began cooperating with federal authorities, Nichols allegedly told him he could pay bribes to get his property taxes cut and introduced Haleem to the two Board of Review employees who are now accused of taking bribes in exchange for reducing the assessed value of two homes Haleem owns in Chicago and Burbank.

The streets where the properties are located were listed in the criminal complaint along with their exact assessed values. The Sun-Times used that information to learn that Haleem was the owner of those properties.

Sources confirmed Haleem was the informant behind the two cases.



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