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Former West Side campaign treasurer pleads guilty in fraud case

Former state Sen. Rickey Hendon’s onetime campaign treasurer faces four to five years in prison after he pleaded guilty Monday to federal grant fraud.

Dean Nichols, 63, admitted he planned to arrange $5,000 kickbacks for each of as many as 19 $25,000 Department of Health and Human Services grants he’d applied for.

His arrest in 2012 — alongside several other defendants with ties to Hendon — came around a year after Hendon abruptly resigned his West Side seat, prompting speculation that the former alderman was in prosecutors’ crosshairs.

Though Hendon hasn’t been charged with any crime, several of his associates including Nichols were caught with the help of dirty former Chicago cop turned FBI mole Ali Haleem.

Haleem wore a wire against Nichols and other Hendon cronies in an effort to lower his own sentence for shaking down tow truck drivers for bribes, and for selling guns to a felon.

His testimony last week in a separate case saw two Cook County Board of Review workers convicted for accepting bribes — a scheme Nichols was also implicated in, though not charged in connection with.

Haleem also previously alleged that Nichols, who he’d known for 20 years, once helped him offer a former alderman $10,000 to help Haleem get promoted in the police department.

After he was arrested and began working with the feds, he told Nichols he had a friend with clout in the federal government.

The imaginary pal could provide $25,000 grants in exchange for kickbacks, Haleem claimed, prompting Nichols to hook up Haleem with people willing to pay $5,000 bribes.

One of those schemers, Anthony Johnson, 61, pleaded guilty Monday alongside Nichols.

Wiretapped conversations show Nichols was nervous about being set-up.

When Nichols finally got through to Haleem in November 2011 after calling him “12 times,” court papers say, 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.

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 return for Nichols and Johnson’s guilty pleas, prosecutors have agreed to ask for a sentence of 46 to 57 months for Nichols and 12 to 18 months for Johnson.


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