CHICAGO (CBS) – A 51-year-old former city employee pleaded guilty on Friday to a shakedown scheme targeting store owners selling cigarettes without paying state taxes.
Elias Garza, a former city revenue inspector, admitted to accepting $900 in bribes from a federal mole in exchange for tipping off store owners about upcoming city inspections looking for contraband cigarettes in 2009, according to court documents.
Garza faces up to 20 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Garza admitted to accepting $900 in bribes from a federal mole to provide inspection information. In June and August 2009, Garza called the storeowner telling him to “clean up” his store — code for removing contraband cigarettes before city inspectors showed up.
Garza also agreed to help a storeowner identified as “Individual A” in court papers by scheduling an inspection of a competing store. He accepted a $300 bribe to get the competing store’s license revoked, according to the plea deal.
“This three hundred. [Individual A] tell you hi, hi, but take care of everything please. And you call when coming in the store. When you say clean the store, I know what that mean. Take care. Please call, my friend,” a federal source said to Garza during a meeting at a Burger King. Garza agreed and took the cash, according to court papers.
Garza will be sentenced at a later date.
(The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.)