A worker at an excavation company in suburban Chicago has been convicted on charges alleging that he paid more than $280,000 in kickbacks to a local road commissioner in exchange for approval of fraudulent invoices for work that was never performed.
A federal jury in U.S. District Court in Chicago convicted Mario Giannini, 60, on 14 counts of wire fraud on June 13.
The 2020 indictment alleges that Giannini, who worked for Bulldog Earth Movers, Inc. in Bloomingdale, Ill., conspired between 2012 and 2020 with Robert Czernek, a former elected highway commissioner with Bloomingdale Township, to submit the fraudulent invoices for stone delivery, dump leveling and storm sewer work.
Czernek, 71, pleaded guilty earlier this year to one count of honest-services fraud, agreed to cooperate and testified at Giannini’s trial.
Prosecutors estimated that the fraud scheme resulted in Bloomingdale Township issuing more than $800,000 in checks to Bulldog for work that was not performed.
The owner of the firm and co-defendant, Debra Fazio, was acquitted of charges in the middle of the week-long trial after U.S. District Matthew Kennelly ruled that prosecutors had not proved that Fazio knew about the scheme or intentionally took part in it.
According to the indictment, Czernek hand-wrote notes containing false information that he wanted Giannini to include on invoices submitted by the company to the township.
“The notes included the description of storm sewer work purportedly performed by BEM, and the number of hours and the dates on which BEM purportedly performed certain dump leveling work, when Czernek knew this work had not been performed by BEM. Some of the notes included details about the amount of money which Czernek wanted to be paid in kickbacks," the indictment states.
The indictment also alleges that Czernek hid the notes in secluded locations at the Bloomingdale Township Highway Department building or construction yard where they were to be picked up by Giannini.
According to the indictment, each kickback was typically $5 or $6 for each ton of stone noted on the stone delivery invoices, 50% of the total invoice amount for storm sewer invoices and varied amounts for dump leveling invoices.
As part of his guilty plea, Czernek agreed to forfeit several items that were derived from the fraud scheme, including a 2014 Lexus RX350, a 1966 Buick Wildcat, and a 1981 Corvette.
Giannini is scheduled to be sentenced on Sept. 7. A sentencing date has not yet been set for Czernek.
Calls to Bulldog Earth Movers, to Bloomingdale Township and to Giannini's attorney were not returned by press time.