In September 2008, Cook County Board of Review analyst Thomas Hawkins was talking about an alleged scheme to lower property tax assessments for a corrupt Chicago police officer when he mentioned that the “boss” had grand plans for how to make even more in bribes in the future.
“This is the move…Joe’s gonna run for assessor…he’s gonna win,” Hawkins allegedly told the officer, Ali Haleem, who was secretly recording the conversation for the FBI. “And then he’s gonna appoint his top deputy for commissioner. So now Joe’s gonna get paid double. He’s gonna get paid for raising taxes and lowering (them).”
The “boss,” according to the Tribune, was Cook County Democratic Party Chairman Joe Berrios, who was then on the Board of Review and eventually won his race for county assessor.
Berrios hasn’t been charged with any crime, and he wasn’t in court Tuesday as hours of wiretapped conversations defendants Tommy Hawkins and John Racasi had about their alleged bribe scheme were played for a federal jury.
But he was center stage nonetheless as both defendants repeatedly implicated him in the secretly taped conversations with an undercover FBI informant.
In one, recorded Sept. 17, 2008, Hawkins, 49, boasts that he was “with Berrios… having lettuce salads” — code, the feds say, that the defendants used for accepting cash bribes.
In another, recorded Sept. 11, 2008, Hawkins was recorded explaining that he planned to bypass “red tape” on an allegedly corrupt property tax appeal by going “straight to Berrios and get a signature.”
“You know, with the lettuce, say here you go, man — sign this. Put this through right away,” Hawkins was taped saying.