A former engineer for the Forest Preserve District of Cook County was indicted Wednesday on federal charges that he accepted $10,000 in kickbacks from a contractor he worked with on facility improvements at the district headquarters in River Forest and a nature center in Calumet City, law enforcement officials announced Thursday.
According to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office, the Forest Preserve District headquarters in River Forest and a nature center in Calumet City, which were both spruced up in 2011, were part of an FBI investigation that resulted in the federal bribery charges against former assistant engineer Joseph Mollica, 52, of Elmwood Park.
Prosecutors allege that Mollica accepted a $6,000 kickback on October 14, 2011, out of a $24,900 agreement with a contractor to refinish and refurbish the Forest Preserve District’s headquarters building at 536 N. Harlem Ave., in River Forest. The contractor cooperated with law enforcement in their investigation, according to the release.
Mollica is also accused of accepting $4,000 on December 16, 2011, as a result of a $16,500 contract to power wash and stain the building and boardwalk and do caulking at the Sand Ridge Nature Center in Calumet City.
The indictment seeks forfeiture of $10,000 in alleged kickback payments.
"In both instances, a cooperating individual, a construction company owner who recorded conversations and meetings with Mollica in which the contracts were arranged and the kickbacks were paid, appeared to perform the work properly and completely, according to the complaint affidavit of an FBI agent," the release reads. The kickback payments occurred after the Forest Preserve District paid the cooperating individual for the work that was performed.
Mollica worked at the headquarters building as an assistant engineer for more than 20 years until last week, according to the release.
Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Shields, Jr., Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation announced the charges Thursday. Mollica was arrested Oct. 3 and charged initially in a criminal complaint, according to the release. He was released on his own recognizance after the arrest and will be arraigned Wednesday, Nov. 6, in U.S. District Court.
Each count of federal bribery carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. If convicted, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under federal statutes and the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Hotaling, according to the release.
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