South Side businessman indicted in scheme to steal state health grants
BY DAVE MCKINNEY AND CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporters October 5, 2012 11:00AM
Leon Dingle Jr., a South Side businessman, was indicted by a federal grand jury on a 23-count fraud indictment unsealed Friday.
Updated: November 7, 2012 6:07AM
A federal grand jury has indicted a South Side businessman for allegedly masterminding a scheme in which state cancer, HIV-prevention and other health grants were used to buy three Mercedes-Benz cars and renovate vacation homes in Savannah, Ga. and Hilton Head, S.C.
The 23-count fraud, money-laundering and tax-evasion indictment unsealed Friday accuses former Illinois Medical District board member Leon Dingle Jr., 75; his wife, Karin, 73, and two others of stealing a total of $3.7 million in state health grants.
Besides spending that taxpayer money on luxury cars and vacation homes, authorities allege the four spent it on a $95,066 mortgage payment for Leon Dingle’s son, college tuition bills, skybox college football tickets and other personal expenses for family members.
The indictment alleges the misappropriations were allegedly concealed from the Illinois Department of Public Health by Dingle using a series of not-for-profit groups as “straw grantees” that won more than $11 million in grants between 2004 and 2010. Once the money was in hand, it was allegedly transferred to a for-profit business that Dingle controlled.
Leon Dingle could not be reached for comment. A woman who identified herself as Karin Dingle vouched for the couple’s innocence in a brief phone interview.
“It’s all a big mistake. They’re fishing,” she said. “It was ridiculous how hard he worked on these projects. We’ll see what happens.”
This marks the second time in the past 11/2 years that federal grand juries in Springfield have returned indictments that allege fraud involving grants awarded when Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, a close friend and golfing partner of President Barack Obama, was the health department’s director.
Neither case offers evidence that Whitaker knew of the alleged misspending of the millions of dollars his department awarded to Dingle and Margaret A. Davis, a nurse who was indicted in a grant-fraud scheme in June 2011 and is set to go to trial early next year.
Whitaker, who joined ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration in 2003 and left in October 2007, could not be reached for comment. Last year, he told the Sun-Times that “in the course of administering some 8,000 grants related to approximately 240 public health programs, there was a handful that fell short. When I and my team were aware of problems, we acted swiftly. . . . In some cases, we couldn’t have known about transgressions.”
The not-for-profit grantees allegedly used by Dingle included the Broadcast Ministers Alliance of Chicago, a faith-based health-care awareness group; Access Wellness and Racial Equity, a medical consulting organization formed by a Dingle associate; and the Medical Health Association, another medical consulting organization formed by another Dingle associate.
Also charged in the scheme were Jacquelyn M. Kilpatrick, 57, of south suburban Phoenix, who was bookkeeper and vice president of Dingle’s for-profit business, Advance Health, Social and Education Associates; and Edmond Clemons, 66, who shares the Phoenix address with Kilpatrick. Neither could be reached for comment.
According to the indictment, the Dingles and their family members received some $3 million of the laundered grant money, using it to purchase $300,000 in certificates of deposit and paying expenses related to the Chicago Yacht Club, the South Carolina Yacht Club, the Mid-America Club and maintenance of a condominium at Chicago Marina Towers. Additionally, the indictment accuses the Dingles of failing to report approximately $1.4 million in income on their federal and state income taxes.
The indictment also alleges that Kilpatrick and Clemons received $700,000 of the misappropriated grant funds, using those dollars to maintain a vacation home in Hilton Head and buy a Mercedes-Benz, a Cadillac, certificates of deposit and a fur coat.
Kilpatrick and Clemons also allegedly failed to report approximately $277,000 in income, most of which was misappropriated grant money.
Arraignment of the defendants is set for Nov. 7 before federal Magistrate Judge Byron Cudmore in Springfield.