PHOTO: Reggi Hopkins, 43, of Chicago Southside, one of seven people charged with bribery conspiracy by the federal authorities, tries to avoid the media, at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse.
A campaign treasurer for a former state senator, two Cook County corrections officers and four others were snared in an FBI undercover investigation, according to federal corruption charges unsealed today.
The seven defendants believed they were able to obtain multiple $25,000 grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in return for paying kickbacks to an HHS official, officials said.
But authorities said the official did not really exist and the scheme was part of a ruse by the FBI.
Among those charged was Dean Nichols, who authorities identified as a campaign treasurer for a former undisclosed state senator. According to Illinois State Board of Elections records, Nichols was once a campaign treasurer for former state Sen. Rickey Hendon, who abruptly quit last year.
Authorities said the undercover probe was aided by an undisclosed Chicago police officer who began cooperating with federal investigators in 2008 during an investigation into public corruption and gun-trafficking.
The officer had long ties to Nichols, including a time when they attempted to bribe a Chicago alderman by offering $10,000 to promote the officer, but according to the officer and the alderman, who is no longer in office, the payoff never occurred, authorities said.
Nichols, 62, of Oak Park, was charged with three counts of bribery conspiracy, and Elliott Kozel, 51, Chicago, was charged with four counts. Reggi Hopkins, 43, of Chicago; Anthony Johnson, 59, of Chicago; Mary Smith, 54, of South Holland; Regina Hollie, 48, of Chicago; and Bryant Jessup, 51, of Chicago, were each charged with one count of bribery conspiracy, according to a press release from federal authorities.
According to the release, Kozel and Smith are Cook County corrections officers.