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County Property Tax Review Analysts Charged With Bribery

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CHICAGO (CBS) — Two Cook County property tax review analysts have been charged by federal authorities for accepting $1,500 in bribes to help cut some homeowner’s assessments.

Thomas Hawkins, 48; and John Racasi, 51 – both analysts for one of the three commissioners on the Cook County Board of Review – are charged with accepting bribe to facilitate a property tax assessment reduction of more than $14,000 on three residential properties, according to the U.S. Attorney’s office.

Hawkins and Racasi allegedly discussed scheming to facilitate lower assessments for bribes, but only accepted one bribe. They, and the residential properties involved, were identified by a federal informant, prosecutors said.

Hawkins allegedly accepted the bribe in November 2008, but the analysts were not charged at the time because of ongoing investigations involving the informant.

Prosecutors say the informant was a Chicago Police officer who began cooperating with federal agents during an investigation of public corruption and gun trafficking. The informant will likely face his own separate charges of attempted extortion and gun offenses, prosecutors said.

In the Hawkins and Racasi case, the informant discussed a scheme with a fourth person called “Individual A” about getting the property tax reduced on his houses in Chicago and Burbank and a condo in Tinley Park in August 2008, prosecutors said. They talked about getting a 20 to 30 percent reduction on the assessment via a bribery scheme, prosecutors said.

Individual A told the informant he would use his clout with the Board of Review to accomplish the task, and introduced the informant to Hawkins, prosecutors said.

Later the same month, the informant recorded a conversation between Hawkins, Racasi and the owner of a restaurant who also hoped to get his property taxes reduced. Racasi told the restaurant owner he charged $150 per property identification number upfront, and another $150 when the tax reduction was complete, prosecutors said. Racasi said the fees were double for people he didn’t know, prosecutors said.

Racasi, Hawkins and the informant also allegedly talked about a broader scheme to charge people $500 to get their assessments reduced.

“We’re going to have a lot. Let’s do a $500 [inaudible] fee. All right? That’s the whole thing [inaudible] for every house because there’s going to be so many houses. That way nobody gets hoggish, and there is room to play if you want to play,” Hawkins allegedly said in the recorded conversation.

Hawkins and Racasi allegedly agreed to reduce the assessed values on the informant’s Chicago and Burbank properties, and the Tinley Park condo – owned by another person – for $1,500, prosecutor said.

The bribe was paid to the Racasi on Sept.17, 2008, prosecutors said.

Racasi and Hawkins are charged with bribery, and could face up to 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.