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Court employee and sheriff’s officer allegedly bilked $2,000 from couple

A Cook County Circuit Court employee and a sheriff’s officer allegedly bilked $2,000 from a couple, falsely promising them that the clerk employee could have the man’s traffic cases thrown out because he was a connected lawyer.

Problem is Benjamin M. Maldonado is not licensed to practice law in the state of Illinois.

Nor is he the relative of a county commissioner as the sheriff’s officer allegedly boasted to the female victim, assuring her that the couple would get “good results” if they hired Maldonado because he was an “excellent” and “trustworthy” attorney.

Maldonado, 50, and his cohort, Jaime Baez, were both ordered held in lieu of $10,000 bail Thursday for bribery for the 2010 scheme. The pair was arrested following a joint investigation with the state’s attorney’s office and the FBI.

The female victim, who met Baez after he helped her evict a deadbeat tenant, told authorities that he bragged about being a sheriff’s officer and that he had connections with judges.

So when her husband was stopped by Chicago Police officers for driving without a license on Dec. 30, 2009, she reached out to Baez who referred her to Maldonado,

prosecutors said.

A few days later, Maldonado took $1,000 from the couple when he met with them the Golden Nugget Restaurant, at Pulaski and Irving Park Road, prosecutors said.

He told them to consider the case “already won” and that he could clear the husband’s previous three traffic cases because he had inside connections to the Secretary of State

office, prosecutors said.

Maldonado also allegedly told the man and woman he had connections with the city and immigration officials and offered to help them if they had problems in those areas as

well.

The male victim grew suspicious because Maldonado’s offer seemed to be too good to be true so he pushed Maldonado to write a receipt and agreed to meet with Maldonado at his next court date on Jan. 28, 2010, prosecutors said.

But before then, Maldonado met with Baez and allegedly gave him a “cut” of $500.

Before his court appearance, the male victim met with Maldonado at a Daley Center restaurant in order to pay Maldonado the remaining $1,000, prosecutors said.

But when the man went to court, Maldonado never showed up and the man was told he had to spend four days in jail, prosecutors said.

This upset the man who told other court workers about the promises Maldonado made and when he called Maldonado to complain, he hung up on him, prosecutors said.

Maldonado later told the man’s wife he never should have told others about the money he paid him to others and promised her he took care of the 4-day jail sentence and told the man he didn’t have to appear for a March 17th court date, prosecutors said.

But the man did have to be in court and officers came knocking at his door.

That’s when the man’s wife went to the Daley Center and learned from a man at the front desk that Maldonado was not an attorney.

The woman eventually went to Maldonado’s office on the 12th floor where prosecutors said he was shocked to see her.

He took her from floor to floor and ended up filling up bogus paperwork, telling the woman her husband’s arrest warrant would be quashed, prosecutors said.

When the woman pointed out that he left a portion of the form where attorneys write their numbers, he said he’d fill it out later, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, Baez allegedly angrily told the woman she and her husband were lucky he and Maldonado were doing her a favor because normally it cost $5,000 to $7,000 to handle

such a case.

Then, on a March 23 court date, Maldonado allegedly told the male victim to refer to him as his interpreter and not his lawyer when they stood before the judge. He also told the

man to lie to the judge and say that his missed his March 17th court date because he was visiting his sick mother, prosecutors said.

The judge handling the case initially said he wasn’t going to grant the man a continuance but changed his mind.

“You see? We won. We got another court date,” Maldonado happily told the couple, explaining that his strategy was to keep getting the case continued until the summer when the jails would be too full for him to be sent there, prosecutors said.

Three weeks later on April 13, the male victim was again arrested for driving without a license.

And again, his wife reached out to Maldonado, who never answered his phone, prosecutors said.

Baez allegedly offered to find the couple another lawyer but the female victim declined and hired another attorney.

The next day when the woman bonded her husband out, she learned that Maldonado had never cleared up her husband’s record and that he currently had four prior violation

convictions.

Baez has since retired from the sheriff’s office.

The Office of the Clerk of the Circuit Court has launched its own investigation and Maldonado, a manager in the probate division, has been placed on unpaid leave,

according to officials.



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