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Feds indict Obama friend Eric Whitaker’s former chief of staff

QuinshauntGolden (pictured 2008)  |  Sun-Times files

Quinshaunta Golden (pictured in 2008) | Sun-Times files

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Updated: September 9, 2013 3:00PM

A federal grand jury on Wednesday indicted Quinshaunta R. Golden — a onetime top aide to Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends — on bribery, theft and fraud charges, accusing her of embezzling about $433,000 in state health department funds.

The money from the kickback scheme began flowing to Golden in July 2007, when Whitaker headed the Illinois Department of Public Health, and Golden was his chief of staff, the indictment alleges.

It allegedly kept flowing until October 2008, by which time Golden and Whitaker had left state government to work together at the University of Chicago Medical Center.

Both Golden, who is a niece of U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.), and Whitaker joined the health department in 2003 after Rod Blagojevich became governor. Obama has said he recommended to the Blagojevich administration that Whitaker be hired.

There is no indication that Whitaker — who started working at the U. of C. in October 2007 but resigned from his job there earlier this year — knew of Golden’s alleged wrongdoing or is a target of the federal investigation.

U.S. Attorney James A. Lewis, who oversees the Central District of Illinois, is expected to outline the charges against Golden during a Thursday morning news conference in Springfield. The seven-count indictment accuses her of bribery, theft, witness tampering, mail fraud and obstruction of justice.

It’s the latest in a string of criminal cases that involve hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grants and contracts awarded under Whitaker’s watch. The federal investigation has led to charges against former state Rep. Connie Howard (D-Chicago), who has pleaded guilty, and several others in the Chicago area health community.

Part of Golden’s alleged scheme involved getting kickbacks from a security company that employed Roxanne B. Jackson, who worked under both Whitaker and Golden as human resources director for the health department in 2003 and 2004. Jackson then left that job and became “director of legal services” for V.I.P. Security & Detective Services, which got about $2 million in health department money starting in 2006 to do criminal-background checks on nursing home residents under a new state law.

The indictment identifies the company only as “Security Firm A,” but details within it make clear that the company is V.I.P. Security. The document also cites an unnamed “Individual A” who was “an associate of defendant Golden” and “an associate and paid consultant” to the security firm.

V.I.P. was paid $300 per background check, but “Golden required Individual A to pay Defendant Golden kickback payments of approximately $35 to $40 for each” check. All told, Golden got about $109,500 through that arrangement.

Golden also “used her position as Chief of Staff at DPH” to issue millions of dollars in grant funds to not-for-profit healthcare groups controlled by Leon Dingle Jr., a South Side businessman who was indicted last year for spending that money on cars, homes and other luxuries. Individual A, who also worked for Dingle, is accused of making $323,500 in payments to Golden from those grant funds.

The witness-tampering charge against Golden stems from her meeting with Individual A and encouraging that person “not to tell the truth concerning their kickback scheme, conceal the truth from Individual A’s attorney, and to create a false story by stating that Individual A used the grant and contract funds for gambling and other personal expenses.”

Golden also allegedly told Individual A that he or she “could not go to jail and that a false story would be believable to a jury.”

Golden is married to Victor Golden, a $109,248-a-year administrator with the Illinois Lottery. She is a former member of the Cook County Health and Hospital Systems Board.

Whitaker announced last November he was leaving his job at U. of C. in March to pursue other opportunities. His total compensation in 2011 was $784,283.

Golden left her job as Whitaker’s top aide at U. of C. the same month. Her 2011 compensation was $317,409.

Golden has been a White House visitor, attending a “leadership meeting” there in 2011, according to White House logs.

Whitaker, meanwhile, still enjoys access to the Obama inner circle after having been a vacation companion of the president and first lady and a frequent attendee at official White House functions. Whitaker last visited the White House in March as a guest of Obama and his wife, Michelle, visitor logs show.

Phone calls to Golden and Whitaker were not immediately returned. A spokeswoman for Whitaker had no immediate comment. Roxanne Jackson declined to comment.

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