* 9:40 am - I heard about this earlier this morning. The Sun-Times followed up...
Orlando Jones, a former high-ranking Cook County government official and longtime political insider, was found dead in southwestern Michigan late Wednesday, sources familiar with the situation said today.
Jones is the godson of ex-County Board President John Stroger. Jones was found dead in Berrien County, Mich.
Jones recently had been the subject of media reports in Las Vegas accusing him of wrongdoing regarding hospital contracts. Jones told the Chicago Sun-Times last week that he did nothing wrong.
Las Vegas police have recommended the prosecution of the former head of Cook County Hospital and two Chicago businessmen — one of them Orlando Jones, the politically connected godson of former Cook County Board President John Stroger.
As many as 36 possible charges were detailed in a 60-page document submitted Thursday to the Clark County, Nev., district attorney, according to reports in the Las Vegas Sun and on KLAS-TV.
In the reports, investigators allege that former Stroger Hospital chief Lacy Thomas, as head of the financially troubled University Medical Center in Las Vegas, gave “no-work” contracts worth millions to Chicago companies. In return, police said, Chicago companies gave kickbacks in the form of contracts awarded to Thomas’ wife, according to the reports.
At the top of the list of shady contracts is one Thomas signed with Crystal Communications headed by his buddy Martello Pollock. Pollock was supposed to revamp UMC’s telephone system. He subcontracted some of the work to another friend of Thomas’ named Orlando Jones, a politically connected Chicago man whose business dealings in that city are already under law enforcement scrutiny.
Crystal received the contract days after Lacy Thomas and his wife traveled with Orlando Jones on a jaunt to the Caribbean. UMC officials say the company was paid for its work even though it never submitted a work product.
Metro alleges that Thomas ordered UMC staff to pay the Chicago vendors first and on time, even though UMC was bleeding red and was millions of dollars behind in payments to far more important vendors, including drug companies.
The central question is did Lacy Thomas receive kickbacks from his friends? That’s what police believe. Law enforcement sources say Thomas has a major gambling habit. They know of $100,000 in cash that he’s dropped at local casinos, but it isn’t clear where he got the money.
I’m told by people who know him that Jones may have killed himself.
* More background stories…
* Tony, Orlando, John & Rod
* Orlando Jones and Blagojevich
* Rezko’s woes may tilt county races: Key state-level player had role
* Audit shows state again in arrears on leases, bills
* Jail’s phone contractor has links to Stroger; Secretary notarized paperwork for firm, which gave pal a job
* Minority firm led by a dead woman - County reviews company’s qualifications for program
* 9:56 am - Tribune…
Undersheriff Chuck Heit of the Berrien County Sheriff’s Department said that Jones, 52, was found dead between 6:30 and 7 p.m. Wednesday at Gowdy Shores Beach in Union Pier.
“The investigation is not complete,” said Heit, who said an autopsy was scheduled for this afternoon.
Sources close to the 8th Ward Democratic Organization, the home base for current County Board President Todd Stroger, said today that Jones was found after his wife filed a missing persons report this week.
* 10:07 am - Update from the Sun-Times…
“At this time, it appears to be the gunshot wound was self-inflicted,” Heit said. However, “the official cause of death is undetermined” pending an autopsy this afternoon.