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Report: Inspector Shook Down Restaurant Owners With Vitamin Sales

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License Suspended

A sign announcing a license suspension after a Chicago Department of Public Health inspection. (Credit: CBS)

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Inspector shakedowns of businesses in Chicago have been legendary over the years, but now a new twist to that theme.

As WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports, a city Department of Public Health inspector quit rather than face termination for allegedly intimidating restaurant owners into buying vitamins from her.

LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Bernie Tafoya reports

The Chicago Tribune reports Cesar Izquierdo, co-owner of Taste of Peru, at 6545 N. Clark St. in the Rogers Park neighborhood, says he was fined $500 for a handful of ticky-tack violations. He told the newspaper that inspector Charity Okoro came into the restaurant screaming as she wrote him up for cross-contamination for leaving an open can of beer that was being used for cooking next to an uncut avocado.

But when Izquierdo told Okoro he had back problems, she quickly halted her fury, the Tribune reported. Izquierdo told the newspaper that Okoro returned the next day as a vitamin saleswoman, and sold him $391 worth of Nutrilite vitamins.

Izquiredo told the Tribune he was intimidated when Okoro came selling the vitamins.

Okoro returned to conduct another inspection soon afterward, and passed the Taste of Peru without even returning to the kitchen, the Tribune reported.

Okoro denies she intimidated any restaurant owner, although the Tribune says three other restaurants make similar claims about her trying to sell them vitamins. None of the owners, including Izquierdo, complained to the Department of Public Health, the Tribune reported.

An administrative judge later reversed the fines against Taste of Peru, and an investigation led to Okoro deciding to quit, the newspaper reported.

Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Bechara Choucair says he wants restauranteurs to report any health inspector shenanigans directly to him, the Tribune reported.

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