Feds turn their attention to Joseph Mario Moreno and Ambrosio Medrano
BY MARK BROWN firstname.lastname@example.org July 2, 2012 8:28PM
Former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno leaves federal court after being charged with taking part in bribery schemes Thursday, June 28, 2012. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: August 4, 2012 6:32AM
While I was on vacation, I missed out on all the fun involving hogs and pigs and the former Cook County commissioner who just wanted to get fat.
That’s OK, because the critter I find most intriguing in that case is the mole.
As former county commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno and previously convicted Ald. Ambrosio Medrano are now acutely aware, there’s been a mole on the loose here for more than two years.
And while the mole didn’t get nearly as much attention when federal charges were announced Thursday against Moreno and Medrano, my gut tells me those two aren’t the only political types in danger of getting “slaughtered” as a result of his work.
Admittedly, we know very little at this point about the mole, referred to in court documents as Cooperating Witness 1 — CW1 for short — who secretly tape recorded Moreno and Medrano as they allegedly participated in three separate bribery schemes.
Naturally, though, the mole is no Boy Scout.
Affidavits sworn out by FBI special agent Brendan O’Leary disclose that CW1 has been convicted of theft twice since 1978 and sentenced to probation both times.
CW1 is currently the target of an Internal Revenue Service investigation for submitting false tax returns “in which CW1 failed to report significant income for himself and his company for several years,” the affidavit states.
The mole began cooperating with federal authorities in March 2010 after being confronted about his tax problems.
Two months later, he secretly recorded Moreno as the commissioner explained his new duties as a member of the Town of Cicero’s Local Business Assistance Committee.
Three months after that, the mole was driving Moreno around in his personal car as they discussed locations for a waste transfer station in Cicero when Moreno broached the expectation that its approval would result in a payday for him.
Federal authorities say Moreno accepted $5,000 from CW1 on Dec. 15, 2010, as part of a bribe to ensure the town’s support for the waste transfer station.
It was during their courtship that Moreno made the comment that understandably got a lot of attention.
“I don’t want to be a hog. I just want to be a pig. Hogs get slaughtered. Pigs get fat,” Moreno said. It’s a colorful if overused expression.
Now there’s some thinking that Moreno has opted to play the role of mole himself since being confronted with the case against him.
His attorney, Richard Kling, would only say Monday that Moreno “realizes the seriousness of the charges and looks forward to them being resolved in the court rather than in the media.”
But Moreno was allowed to report to court on his own Thursday, while Medrano was arrested and brought before the same federal magistrate in handcuffs. That’s a pretty good indication Moreno has done something to get on prosecutors’ good side.
We know Moreno had already talked to the FBI and the U.S. Atttorney’s office before showing up in court because one of the court documents says so.
According to court documents, Moreno denied receiving any bribes or kickbacks in connection with an earlier prescription drug contract at Stroger Hospital — despite exhaustive recordings of Medrano and a businessman involved with that contract discussing how Moreno had installed a friend as a minority subcontractor on the deal.
“[Moreno’s friend] was the middle man. So every time he got paid, Mario got paid,” Medrano told the mole and an undercover FBI agent posing as his associate.
Later, another businessman charged in the more recent scheme told the undercover agent that the prescription drug contract was so lucrative for Moreno that he “has a boat to show for that deal.”
Keep in mind that some of the charges date back to when Moreno was still on the Cook County board, although as a lame duck. He was defeated in the 2010 Democratic primary by Jesus “Chuy” Garcia but didn’t leave his post until that December. Unbeknownst to most of us, Medrano was on his county payroll.
For Medrano, of course, this is not only the second time he’s been taken down in a federal investigation but also the second time he’s been caught in a trap set by a government mole.
I always thought both hogs and pigs were equipped with better olfactory systems than that.