Thursday, March 6, 2014

November 9-21, 2011 - Was Crucial Evidence of the Criminal IT Case Intentionally Destroyed by DuPage Forest Preserve during these Twelve Days?

PART ELEVEN OF COUNTYLEAKS SERIES ON DUPAGE COUNTY FOREST PRESERVE...

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart SevenPart EightPart NinePart Ten

On Nov. 9, 2o11, an undisclosed subcontractor of  JRM Consulting, Inc. was sent by the 
Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (FPDDC) to pick up equipment from Alamach Technology, Inc. 

Under contract, Alamach had provided all IT archives, email back-up, and disaster recovery for the FPDDC off-site in compliance with the Federal Regulations on Civil Procedures and the 2002 Homeland Security Act

This equipment contained data that would be described as "the most crucial evidence in the case" of Arif Mahmood, former owner of Alamach. Mahmood would later be charged with 37 felony counts in alleged scheme to steal from the FPDDC. Also charged in this case were the District's former director of its IT department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, each with 142 felony counts.

JRM had been paid $66,000 by the FPDDC in 2011 to conduct a secret internal forensic investigation of its IT department. 

On Dec. 3, 2013, Mahmood's attorney, former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins, filed a motion to dismiss his client's case at the Henry J. Hyde Judicial Office Facility in Wheaton. Collins wrote:
Quite simply, the FPDDC's failure to preserve the most crucial evidence in the case has destroyed any meaningful opportunity Mahmood has to defend himself against the charges alleged. Because of this clear and irreparable violation of Mahmood's right to due process, the Court should dismiss the indictment as to Mahmood.
Citizen watchdogs take it to another level, claiming that the off-site archives may have contained incriminating information of an individual or individuals connected with the FPDDC. This information, they allege, may have been at the heart of the 2011 covert internal investigation. 


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Dixon, Illinois Redux? DuPage County Forest Preserve Mocks The Gipper -- Trust, but Don't Verify

PART TEN OF COUNTYLEAKS SERIES ON DUPAGE COUNTY FOREST PRESERVE...

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart SevenPart EightPart Nine

The day before the widely-publicized arrests of two former IT employees and a vendor of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County in September 2012, a vote was taken by the entity's board on the following:

"Whereas the Board of Commissioners have determined that using Wheaton Bank & Trust will enhance the FPDDC's ability to properly, efficiently and timely manage the FPDDC's assets. 
"Whereas The Board of Commissioners of the FPDDC have determined that using Wheaton Bank & Trust as its primary depository and to transfer all of the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County's assets from JP Morgan Chase to Wheaton Bank & Trust." 
Ordinance 12-445 was passed unanimously and quietly. 

The District subsequently moved a reported $250 million to Wheaton Bank & Trust, increasing the bank's total assets by one-third to $761 million. J.P. Morgan Chase, in contrast, has total assets of nearly $2 trillion. No requests for qualifications were sent out to multiple banks.


Forest Preserve Financial Director Jack Hogan reported that the transfer would save $130,000 annually in fees. Citizen watchdogs, however, ask if the decision had more to do with District's ties to the financial institution. 


In June 2012, less than three months prior to the transfer, the Board approved a three-member evaluation committee to seek bids on an outside consultant to study the entire operation of the District. One of three selected to serve on the committee was Robert Hutchinson, president of Wheaton Bank & Trust and a board member of The Conservation Foundation, headquartered in Naperville. Hutchinson was president of Wheaton Bank & Trust from 2006 until last year
 The evaluation committee did not meet in open and did not keep minutes of their meetings. 

Last year, the District created its first Ethics Commission. Among the three members is Jim Carr, former mayor of Wheaton and a 2010 candidate for the Forest Preserve Board. Carr serves on the Board of Directors of Wheaton Bank & Trust, holding the District's assets.


Watchdogs also question the exact amount of the cash assets, as no detailed monthly financial reports are submitted to the Board. The most recent monthly report of the District was a single page. The Illinois Municipal Code mandates:

"At the end of every month, and oftener if required by the corporate authorities, the municipal treasurer shall render an account under oath to the corporate authorities or to an officer designated by ordinance showing the state of the treasury at the date of the account and the balance of money in the treasury. 
"The treasurer shall accompany the account with a statement of all money received into the treasury, and on what account together with all warrants redeemed and paid by the treasurer." 
DuPage Forest Preserve Commissioner Marsha Murphy was named the Board's treasurer in 2008. 

From 2004 to 2007, Mark Kauffman, often referred to as "Mark the Barber", held the position of treasurer. 


The Chicago Tribune described him: Kauffman is the owner of Sheridan's Barber Shop, in downtown Wheaton, where customers include many of the county's politicians and judges. The shop has developed a reputation over the years as a place for political talk as well as trims and snips.


The Daily Herald described him: Most days of the week, Mark Kauffman holds court in his Wheaton barber shop, joking with customers and taking a little off the top. On Mondays, as DuPage County Forest Preserve District treasurer, he handles finances for a government with a $175 million annual budget and $285 million in investments representing 913,000 people. It's an odd juxtaposition, but one forest preserve President Dewey Pierotti likes.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Round 1: DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin on the Ropes -- Former Federal Prosecutor Patrick Collins Files Motion to Dismiss All Charges

PART NINE OF COUNTYLEAKS SERIES ON DUPAGE FOREST PRESERVE TECH CRIMINAL CASE...

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six, Part SevenPart Eight

Former federal prosecutor Patrick Collins has filed a motion at the Henry J. Hyde Judicial Office Facility of Wheaton to dismiss the case against Arif Mahmood for his alleged involvement in a scheme of stealing $150,000 from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County (FPDDC).

Patrick Collins

In November 2012, the District's former director of its IT department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, were each indicted with 140 felony counts, while Mahmood, who worked for Alamach Technology, Inc., an IT vendor for the District, was charged with 37 counts, in the alleged theft scheme.

In an eight-page memorandum, Collins requested the Court to dismiss the case due to apparent failure to preserve "crucial evidence" for his client "to defend himself against the charges alleged".

Excerpts from the memorandum:
Pursuant to a written agreement with the FPDDC, Mahmood reluctantly complied and (he understood, temporarily) turned over all the computer equipment, and its fruits, to the FPDDC. The FPDDC, through its agents and its computer expert, hand-picked by the president of the FPDDC, took possession of the computer equipment in furtherance of the pending law enforcement investigation. 
Stunningly, and as recently acknowledged by the FPDDC, neither the FPDDC, its expert, nor law enforcement took any steps to preserve the equipment, nor did any of them make a mirror image of equipment so that it could be utilized for the criminal case.
(Scroll to end of article to read entire motion)
The response by the FPDDC was quite disturbing: at a basic level, even after multiple inquiries, the FPDDC has been unable to confirm that they possess the computer equipment that was seized from Mahmood. Second, contrary to basic forensic procedures, the FPDDC has acknowledged that none of the computer devices were preserved and no forensic images or backups were made. Finally, after a forensic assessment by Mahmood's expert of certain computer equipment that may be the computer equipment at issue, it appears that all the equipment at issue was put back in service by the FPDDC, thereby destroying any possibility of analyzing what Alamach, and its subcontractor, did under the terms of the contracts. 
As a result of the FPDDC's actions and inactions, the computer equipment has been irretrievably tainted for use in this criminal proceeding.
Quite simply, the FPDDC's failure to preserve the most crucial evidence in the case has destroyed any meaningful opportunity Mahmood has to defend himself against the charges alleged. Because of this clear and irreparable violation of Mahmood's right to due process, the Court should dismiss the indictment as to Mahmood.
At a Dec. 6th hearing, DuPage County Judge Blanche Hill Fawell ordered the state to respond to Collins' motion by Jan. 24th.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Marquardt Bros. -- We've Got Your Back

Lobbyist for DuPage County State's Attorney's Office is Attorney & Brother of Forest Preserve's IT Covert Forensic Investigator


PART EIGHT OF COUNTYLEAKS SERIES...

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart SixPart Seven

Scott Marquardt of the Wheaton-based law firm, Marquardt & Belmonte, P.C., represented JRM, Inc. in matters related with the company's secret "internal investigation" of the DuPage County Forest Preserve District's information technology (IT) department. JRM is an IT firm owned by Jerry Marquardt of Naperville, the attorney's brother. 


Scott is also a lobbyist at a firm named after the founder and the late father of the brothers, Roger C. Marquardt & Co. This firm is paid $4,000 per month by the DuPage County State's Attorney's office for lobbying services. Scott's wife, Barbara Skurka/Marquardt, has been paid $48,000 as a consultant for Citizens for Bob Berlin, the political campaign for the State's Attorney.


Findings from JRM were given to the State's Attorney's office in 2011. A year later, the District's former director of its IT department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, were each charged with 140 felony counts, while a third man, Arif Mahmood, who worked for Alamach Technology, Inc., an IT vendor for the District, was charged with 37 counts, in an alleged scheme stealing $150,000 from the Forest Preserve.


Citizen watchdogs claim there are numerous political ties, conflicts of interest and a lack of legitimacy surrounding the internal investigation leading to the charges.


In a letter last month concerning Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests handled by the Forest Preserve's attorney, Jim Knippen of Wheaton, Marquardt stated that his firm represents JRM. After explaining that JRM has previously complied with FOIA requests, the letter reads: "JRM, Inc. is no longer in possession of any other emails." And, "Please be advised that JRM., Inc. will no longer be maintaining copies of these documents as it is not required by law or its contract with FPD to do so." (To enlarge, click the image.)





JRM was paid $66,000 by the Forest Preserve in 2011. Per the IT firm's contract, Resolution No. 11-313, all records and documents from the internal investigation are property of the Forest Preserve.

CountyLeaks reported last November that no injunction had been sought to preserve all records pertaining to this case in "Hark -- Is that the Buzz of Cicadas or a Shredder? Did the DuPage Forest Preserve Shred a Truckload of Records During a Criminal Investigation?"

Nine months later, it appears nothing has changed.



Friday, July 12, 2013

Now Entering the Ring -- Heavyweight Former Federal Prosecutor Patrick Collins vs. Featherweight DuPage County State's Attorney Bob Berlin

PART SEVEN OF COUNTYLEAKS SERIES...

Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart FivePart Six

Chicago attorney Patrick Collins, famous for leading the federal prosecution which placed former Illinois Governor George Ryan in an orange jumpsuit for racketeering and fraud, will be representing Arif Mahmood, a defendant charged with 37 counts for his alleged involvement in a scheme of stealing $150,000 from the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.

Patrick Collins

Last November, the District's former director of its IT department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, were each indicted with 140 felony counts, while Mahmood, who worked for Alamach Technology, Inc., an IT vendor for the District, was charged with 37 counts, in the alleged theft scheme.

Nearly two years after losing their Forest Preserve jobs and contract, ten months after their arrests and eight months after their indictments of 317 felony counts, the DuPage County State's Attorney's office still has not produced bill of particulars -- the formal, detailed, written complaint of charges -- as required by law (725 ILCS 5/111-6).

DuPage County Judge Blanche Hill Fawell ordered on May 13th that the State produce a bill of particulars at the hearing scheduled for today at the Henry J. Hyde Judicial Office Facility of Wheaton. After a series of delays over months -- a flood, attorney vacations, attorney non-appearance, and the judge testifying in another criminal case -- DuPage County Asst. State's Attorney Ken Tatarelis requested more time. 

The state was granted a five-week extension until Aug. 19th, as there were no objections from defense attorneys Terry Ekl and Ernie DiBenedetto, representing Tepper and McDonald respectively.

Collins was prepared to begin representing Mahmood in this morning's hearing. However, Mahmood's first attorney, Timothy Martin of Wheaton-based Martin & Kent, LLC, had not yet withdrawn from the case. Reportedly, attempts to contact Martin today prior to the hearing were unsuccessful.


Tuesday, May 21, 2013

DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin & Brother Tom Cronin -- Attempted Takeover of RNHA Illinois No Longer Behind the Scenes

PART FIVE OF A COUNTYLEAKS SERIES...

"Eliminating boards and commissions that pay generously for part-time work will both pare down the size of government and help our bottom line." - Chris Hage, Republican candidate for 42nd District Representative of Illinois, February 2012

Part One, Part Two, Part Three, Part Four


Part Five of a CountyLeaks series on numerous ethical and public interest questions surrounding DuPage County Board Chairman Dan Cronin's reappointment of Federation of Illinois Young Republicans Executive Director Chris Hage to the DuPage County Election Commission for $27,500 annually plus health care benefits...


CountyLeaks' sources claim that Cronin and Hage have been attempting a behind-the-scenes takeover of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly of Illinois (RNHA) for several years, raising additional concerns of ongoing partisanship and political activism of the electoral board's vice chairman. 


The latest development supporting Cronin's involvement was the entrance of his brother, Tom, in a court battle between two Illinois chapters of the RNHA. A newer "chapter", Illinois Chapter of the Republican National Hispanic Assembly, is backed by Cronin and Hage. The established chapter embraces political rival and critic of Dan Cronin, Rafael Rivadeneira



(To enlarge, click on the image)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Six Months Later in the DuPage Forest Preserve IT Criminal Case -- 317 Felony Counts of Nothing in Particular

PART SIX OF A COUNTYLEAKS SERIES...
Part OnePart TwoPart ThreePart FourPart Five

Nearly six months after filing 317 felony counts against two former Information Technology (IT) department employees of the DuPage Forest Preserve District and a former vendor, the DuPage County State's Attorney's office has yet to produce the bill of particulars -- the formal, detailed, written complaint of charges -- as required by law (725 ILCS 5/111-6).

Citizen watchdogs speculate that this delay involves the numerous political ties and lack of legitimacy of those behind the "secret internal investigation" initiated by the Forest Preserve -- a move which may have been prompted by a purchase order epiphany, as CountyLeaks questions today. Findings from this "investigation" were presented to the State's Attorney's office in November 2011. The bill of particulars would likely rely heavily on these findings.

The District's former director of its IT department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper, were each charged with 140 felony counts, while a third man, Arif Mahmood, who worked for Alamach Technology, Inc., an IT vendor for the District, was charged with 37 counts, in an alleged scheme stealing $150,000 from the Forest Preserve.


CountyLeaks was first to report on the staggering number of charges handed down by a grand jury on Halloween 2012Lending perspective to these numbers, former Gov. George Ryan had 18 felony indictments in 2003 and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich had "only" 16 counts in 2009. 


Yet there was no customary press conference immediately following the grand jury's 317 felony counts. Three days earlier, CountyLeaks explained at length the political ties between the Forest Preserve, JRM Consulting and the State's Attorney's office. CountyLeaks found the felony indictments during periodic searches on the court clerk's website after the well-reported arrests in September.