* It’s been abundantly clear for some time now that the state’s grant programs need a complete rethink…
A federal jury Wednesday found a Chicago couple guilty on all counts in a state grant scam trial that featured testimony about power, money and sex and saw a high-profile ruling that one of President Barack Obama’s golfing buddies was a hostile witness.
The seven-man, five-woman jury deliberated for about five hours on the fate of Leon and Karin Dingle, who faced conspiracy, mail fraud and money laundering charges. Prosecutors contended that the Dingles helped themselves to $3.36 million in state grant funds that were supposed to fight AIDS, flu and cancer in minority communities and misrepresented or concealed where the money went.
During the trial, prosecutors sought to prove money went instead to underwrite luxury cars, a Marina Towers condo, a son’s mortgage, yacht club expenses, and maintenance of vacation homes in Hilton Head, S.C., and Savannah, Ga., two places the Dingles are putting up for sale. Prosecutors will seek to recover money at sentencing April 9. Most counts carry potential 20-year sentences.
Springfield-based U.S. Attorney James Lewis said a central Illinois task force investigation that so far has netted more than a dozen people on state grant abuse “goes on until we come to the end.”
Those millions would’ve been appreciated by groups that actually do great work. But too many grants are handed out to political cronies, and this is just one example of what results.
The Dingles and their co-defendants, who earlier pleaded guilty, stole what amounted to $2 of every $5 they received in grant funds form IDPH from 2004 to 2010, prosecutors said. The scheme involved $11 million of mostly no-bid, upfront-funded grants ostensibly doled out for AIDS- and cancer-awareness campaigns in minority and under-served communities. […]
The case against Dingle, a well-regarded and successful Chicago businessman, and his wife was part of a probe that had drawn four previous guilty pleas. Quinshaunta Golden, the former IDPH chief of staff who controlled the grants, pleaded guilty to bribery, mail fraud and making false statements. She conspired with former agency human resources director Roxanne Jackson to split ill-gotten gains; Jackson pleaded guilty to bribery and tax fraud. They await sentencing.
Lewis would not comment on further indictments in the IDPH case. He noted that Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of Obama’s who served as IDPH director from 2003 to 2007, is not a target of the investigation. Whitaker made the list of government witnesses, and although never summoned, Bass repeatedly invoked his name to establish a landscape of access and influence Dingle allegedly cultivated to breed criminal activity.