City Inspector Sentenced to Three Years in Prison for Bribery in Probe of Crooked Permits
CHICAGO—A City of Chicago building inspector was sentenced today to three years in federal prison after being convicted at trial in September on bribery charges for accepting two $1,000 cash bribes from a cooperating contractor and demanding two $2,000 cash bribes from developers to approve inspections at residential and commercial construction sites, federal law enforcement officials and the city's Inspector General announced today. The defendant, Jose Hernandez, was sentenced for soliciting or obtaining cash bribes totaling approximately $30,000 from contractors, developers and homeowners since at least 2005.
Hernandez, 47, of Chicago, a building inspector since 1988, was also fined $10,000 by U.S. District Judge David Coar, who ordered Hernandez to begin serving his sentence on Jan. 31, 2011.
To date, 21 defendants, including 15 current or former city employees, have been convicted as part of a federal corruption investigation, code-named Operation Crooked Code.
Evidence at Hernandez's trial in September showed that he had a corrupt relationship with a permit "expediter" since approximately late 2005, and with a contractor since 2007, both of whom have since cooperated in the investigation. Hernandez accepted a $1,000 bribe from the cooperating contractor on Aug. 21, 2008, when Hernandez performed what's known as a "rough inspection"—an inspection of the framing, electrical wiring, plumbing and ventilation ducts before the interior walls are sealed—at a single-family residence in the 9900 block of South Throop in Chicago. At the time of the inspection, the interior walls were covered with drywall, rendering a legitimate inspection impossible, but Hernandez signed the building permit, saying "rough frame approved."
Hernandez also accepted $1,000 from the same contractor on Aug. 10, 2009, to approve a residential rough inspection in the 700 block of West Cornelia. He was also convicted of demanding $2,000 bribes from two different developers to not issue stop work orders at commercial buildings at 650 North Dearborn in June 2007 and at 11250 South Michigan in April 2006.
The sentence was announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Thomas P. Brady, Postal Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and Joseph Ferguson, Inspector General for the City of Chicago.
Anyone with information about alleged corruption in the city permit process is encouraged to contact the City Inspector General's Office either through their hotline, (866) 448-4754, or through their website at www.chicagoinspectorgeneral.org