EX-COOK COUNTY COM­MIS­SIONER PLEADS GUILTY IN COR­RUP­TION CASE

For­mer Cook County Com­mis­sioner and ex-mayor of McCook Jeff Tobol­ski pleads guilty in po­lit­i­cal cor­rup­tion case

Chicago Sun-Times - - FRONT PAGE - JON SEIDEL RE­PORTS,

Jeff Tobol­ski earned a spe­cial place Tues­day in the pan­theon of Cook County cor­rup­tion.

That’s be­cause Chicago-area vot­ers once trusted Tobol­ski with the un­usual priv­i­lege of hold­ing two elected of­fices at the same time. He served not only as a Cook County com­mis­sioner, but also as mayor of tiny west sub­ur­ban McCook.

And in one fell swoop Tues­day, he ad­mit­ted he’d abused both jobs.

Tobol­ski told U.S. District Judge Harry Leinen­we­ber he’d en­gaged in mul­ti­ple extortion and bribery schemes in­volv­ing his two of­fices, ac­cept­ing more than $250,000 in pay­ments “as part of crim­i­nal ac­tiv­ity that in­volved more than five par­tic­i­pants.” He did so in an ar­raign­ment con­ducted by video link, plead­ing guilty to an extortion con­spir­acy and fil­ing a false tax re­turn.

Be­cause the hear­ing was con­ducted by video, Tobol­ski also skipped the awk­ward walk-of-shame through the Dirk­sen Fed­eral Court­house that has been un­avoid­able for gen­er­a­tions of Chicago-area politi­cians caught up in cor­rup­tion schemes.

Tobol­ski re­signed from his of­fices in March, months af­ter fed­eral agents searched his of­fices at McCook’s Vil­lage Hall.

Tobol­ski’s plea agree­ment lays out the de­tails of one extortion scheme but does not name the other par­tic­i­pants. It in­volves a restau­rant that used McCook-owned prop­erty and a sworn McCook po­lice of­fi­cer. In their search last fall, the feds seized records re­lated to a restau­rant once known as The Pub at The MAX — lo­cated in­side a McCook-owned in­door sports com­plex. They also came look­ing for items re­lated to McCook Po­lice Chief Mario DePasquale and an uniden­ti­fied “McCook Po­lice Of­fi­cer A,” records show.

DePasquale could not be reached Tues­day.

Tobol­ski’s plea agree­ment an­tic­i­pates he will co­op­er­ate with fed­eral prose­cu­tors, adding him to a grow­ing list of peo­ple work­ing with the feds amid a se­ries of on­go­ing pub­lic­cor­rup­tion in­ves­ti­ga­tions. Tobol­ski is not ex­pected to be sen­tenced un­til his co­op­er­a­tion is com­plete. Though Tobol­ski’s crimes put him in line for a sen­tence of between 11 and 14 years in prison, he could get a break if he con­tin­ues to co­op­er­ate with the feds.

Leinen­we­ber con­ducted Tues­day’s hear­ing from his 19th floor court­room at the Dirk­sen Fed­eral Court­house. In a video link, Tobol­ski could be seen sit­ting at a con­fer­ence ta­ble in his lawyer’s of­fice. The au­dio of the hear­ing was gar­bled at times, and a pros­e­cu­tor had to clar­ify some facts of the case af­ter ex­plain­ing them to the judge.

Still, the de­tails are in­cluded in Tobol­ski’s plea agree­ment, which lays out an extortion scheme in­volv­ing a restau­rant that signed a five-year deal with McCook in 2013 to use vil­lage prop­erty. In 2016, the restau­rant owner sought per­mis­sion to host events in­volv­ing the sale of al­co­hol at the McCook restau­rant. The owner went to the un­named po­lice of­fi­cer and Tobol­ski, who also served as liquor com­mis­sioner.

The po­lice of­fi­cer told Tobol­ski the restau­rant owner would pay for that per­mis­sion, the plea agree­ment said.

Tobol­ski agreed to give that per­mis­sion in ex­change for pay­ments, ac­cord­ing to the plea deal. The po­lice of­fi­cer met with Tobol­ski pe­ri­od­i­cally to pass along cash that the po­lice of­fi­cer said was from the restau­rant owner, ac­cord­ing to the plea.

Tobol­ski made at least $279,668 in 2018 — more than $10,000 of which came from bribes — but only re­ported $214,270 on his tax re­turn that year, ac­cord­ing to his plea. He also filed false tax re­turns from 2012 through 2017. From 2012 to 2018, Tobol­ski’s false re­turns cost the IRS a to­tal of $56,268 and the Illi­nois De­part­ment of Rev­enue $9,338.

ASH­LEE REZIN GAR­CIA/SUN-TIMES

Then-McCook mayor and Cook County Com­mis­sioner Jeff Tobol­ski gets on an el­e­va­tor af­ter a board meet­ing of the Cook County For­est Pre­serves in December.

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