Sunday, October 25, 2020

McCook police chief Mario DePasquale indicted on extortion charges linked to ex-Mayor Tobolski

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McCook Police Chief Mario DePasquale has been indicted on federal charges, accused of scheming with former Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski to squeeze a restaurant owner for cash bribes and campaign contributions.

The four-count indictment against DePasquale comes more than two weeks after Tobolski, who is also a former Cook County Commissioner, pleaded guilty to accepting multiple bribes totaling more than $250,000.

The charges against DePasquale accuse him and Tobolski of plotting to demand the owner of a McCook restaurant — who had a five-year lease agreement to use village property — pay him and Tobolski $1,500 for each “themed event” he wanted to host. Tobolski and DePasquale would then split those cash bribes.

The indictment also accuses DePasquale of demanding the restaurant owner contribute to Tobolski’s political campaign in order to avoid his interference in the business. The victim made several donations to Tobolski’s campaign, according to the charges.

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DePasquale’s first court date has not yet been set.

Earlier this month, Tobolski pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit extortion and filing a false tax return, admitting he took more than $250,000 bribes in schemes involving more than five other participants, by abusing his positions as Mayor of McCook and Cook County Commissioner. Prosecutors did not reveal how many victims were involved.

As part of his plea deal, Tobolski admitted to taking a total of $29,700 in cash from the restaurant owner in 2016.

Tobolski also admitted to falsifying his 2018 income tax return to claim his income was $214,270, “when defendant knew the total income substantially exceeded that amount.” The feds say his actual income that  year was at least $279,668.50, at least $10,000 of which came from bribes.

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Although he is pleading guilty to only one tax fraud charge, the plea agreement says he also filed false tax returns from 2012-2017.

If convicted at trial, Tobolski would have faced up to 23 years in prison, and up to $500,000 in fines, plus restitution. Under the plea deal, he faces a recommended range of 135 to 168 months in prison (or 11.25 to 14 years), although the ultimate sentence will be up to a judge.

Tobolski resigned both his elected positions in March, just weeks after his longtime chief of staff, Patrick Doherty, was charged by the feds.

In February, Doherty, was indicted on two counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to defraud, accused of conspiring with a fellow sales agent for red light camera company SafeSpeed, and one of the company’s owners, to pay $4,000 in bribes to the relative of an Oak Lawn village trustee, in exchange for influencing that trustee to help approve the installation of additional cameras.

That former SafeSpeed owner, Omar Maani, has been charged for his role in the scheme with Doherty. He faces one count of bribery conspiracy. He also has been cooperating with the feds, according to published reports.

The charges against Doherty came about two weeks after former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to taking $70,000 in bribes to act as a “protector” for red light camera company SafeSpeed. Sandoval said he agreed to take bribes in exchange for blocking proposed legislation to ban red light cameras.

Federal agents raided Sandoval’s home and offices last September, four months before he was charged. According to a search warrant from those raids, federal investigators are casting a wide net in an ongoing corruption probe. The warrant revealed the FBI was seeking evidence related to a vast array of subjects — including Tobolski and SafeSpeed. Others named in the warrant included ComEd; businessman Michael Vondra; video gambling company Gold Rush Gaming; several unnamed Illinois Department of Transportation officials; and several asphalt, concrete, and construction companies.

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