2 Investigators: Some Property Owners Claiming More Than 1 Home For Tax Breaks

Send Your Tips To Pam Zekman

CHICAGO (CBS) — Thousands of property owners may be cheating the county by getting homeowners exemptions to which they are not entitled.

2 Investigator Pam Zekman reports.

Dominic Santoro is one example. He has homeowners exemptions on a home in Barrington and eight apartment buildings he owns in Rosemont.

Under the law, you can get one property-tax deduction using a homeowners exemption, but only if the home is your principle place of residence for that year. The application forms warn that “it’s against the law to supply false information.”

Zekman had a question for Santoro: “How can you live in nine places at the same time as a principle residence?”

“You can’t,” Santoro said.

He denied he is trying to cheat on his property taxes. He later told CBS 2 his exemption claims were “a mistake that will be rectified.”

Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios said he is “totally appalled” by the case.

“Other people are picking up that person’s fair share of the property taxes,” he says.

The assessor’s office says exemptions for all the buildings saved Santoro about $87,000 in property taxes since 2002.

Based on complaints, Berrios estimates there are thousands more like Santoro.

In another case, a woman has exemptions for nine condos she owns on the city’s North Side. Her property-tax savings over the years totaled more than $72,000, according to the assessor’s office.

She had no comment when contacted by CBS 2.

Berrios has cancelled all the exemptions in these cases and says he will refer them to the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office for possible action.

The assessor says he’s pushing for a new state law that would give him the authority to collect past exemption savings, plus 18 percent interest and additional penalties.

“Once it is passed, it will give our office some real teeth and allow us to go after all these tax cheats,” Berrios says.

After a similar law was passed in Florida, Broward County collected $50 million in back taxes, an official there said.

More from 2 Investigators
  • S

    somebody named Nick Santoro of Barrington, IL sure likes to contribute to the democrat party.

  • tom sharp

    Example #456,333 of nitwit patronage workers in city and county jobs not knowing how to do their jobs. Then, when an the media does their job for them, they are “appalled.” Fire whoever has the job of checking the property tax records for owners of multiple properties and a few of Berrios’ family members!

  • chi homeowner

    Yeah Pam for this story and I hope you will do a follow-up!!. Mr. Berrios, here is your opportunity to make a statement. These offenders should be forced to pay back taxes WITH INTEREST and be prosecuted. While many Chicagoans are struggling with increased property taxes it’s not acceptable that these people will get away with it. Your office should be equipped via computer programs to cross reference property ownership with the exemptions. Even though these back taxes won’t relieve all the deficits they may just help to keep taxes from rising so rapidly and giving some relief to homeowners.

    • NWA

      Weren’t the Bush tax cuts enough? Sounds like a Tea Party contributor to me. I’ll bet that he would be one of the first to cry about his fellow Americans who receive “entitlements.”


  • iinoyfb2

    Don’t forget to check the Mayor of Stickney again. He has two, one on his home in Stickney and one on his business in Berwyn,

  • Takes one 2 know one

    Joseph Berrios ! Pam Z. should investigate him and all his hired family members and kickbacks.

  • Typical

    “Other people are picking up that person’s fair share of the property taxes,” Berrios says. Does that mean those “other people” will get their fair share refunded since his office was too feeble to figure this out! #FAIL

  • silliness smith

    Wait. Berrios has been in office for six months. Houlihan was there for years! Not sticking up for Berrios, but let’s blame the right person here!

  • Chivi

    I know of a public school teacher/counselor that owned 6 properties at one time. She did the same thing. Some properties were in Chicago others in Oak Park. Now she only owns one but she certainly owes us tax payers some money.

  • FR

    Let him claim a tax break on his JAIL CELL.

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