by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer. CBS 2’s Jim Williams and Paige Tortorelli contributed to this report.
CHICAGO (CBS) — A top official at the Chicago Department of Aviation has been arrested for fraud, accused of nearly making $6,500 in purchases on his credit card, and falsely disputing the charges.
Aviation Department Deputy Commissioner George Coleman – who is paid a $135,624 salary, according to city records – faces one felony count of continuing financial crimes enterprise.
Cook County Sheriff’s police said American Express began investigating Coleman earlier this year, after he disputed a string of purchases on his card from August 2018 through June 2019.
Police said Coleman disputed:
- a $1,304 charge for patio furniture from Ohana Depot;
- a $1,269.91 charge at Binny’s Beverage Depot;
- three separate purchases at Home Depot, for $951.54, $500.11, and $144.42;
- and a $2,328.55 purchase at Closets by Design.
American Express provided Cook County Sheriff’s investigators with surveillance video of Coleman making two of the disputed purchases at Home Depot on May 27 and June 1, police said.
The credit card company also provided police with audio recordings of conversations Coleman had with Closets by Design between May and August, regarding an order he later disputed.
Sheriff’s police said Coleman met with investigators on Monday, and after he was shown the video and receipts of the disputed transactions, he admitted to making the purchases and filing false claims with American Express.
A Cook County judge set Coleman’s bond at $10,000 on Tuesday. Prosecutors said the charges have nothing to do with Coleman’s work for the city.
According to Coleman’s biography on the Department of Aviation website, he is responsible for the department’s federal, state, and local legislative affairs. Coleman has worked in government for more than 20 years, previously working as a deputy procurement officer at the Department of Procurement Services, where he served as a liaison to the City Council.
The Aviation Department did not respond to requests for comment.