CHICAGO (CBS) — Bloomingdale Township Road District Commissioner Robert Czernek has been charged in a $280,000 kickback scheme, accused of taking bribes from an excavation company that did little of the work it was paid for over several years.
A 30-page indictment in federal court charges Czernek, 69; Bulldog Earth Movers Inc. owner Debra Fazio, 63; and Bulldog employee Mario Giannini, 58, with 14 counts of wire fraud. Fazio also faces six counts of money laundering.
Federal prosecutors say, from 2012 through 2020, Czernek used his position to arrange for $700,000 in payments to Bulldog for storm sewer installations, stone deliveries, and “dump leveling,” even though he knew much of the work had not been performed. In exchange, Fazio and Giannini arranged for $280,000 to be kicked back to Czernek.
According to the indictment, Czernek sometimes sent hand-written notes to Giannini and Fazio, with false information he wanted Bulldog to submit as part of their invoices to the township, describing work they were supposed to have performed, including specific hours and dates, even though he knew the work wasn’t actually done. Some of those notes included details about how much he wanted to be paid in kickbacks, according to the feds.
Prosecutors said Czernek often sent the notes to Giannini using secret secluded dropoff spots at the Bloomingdale Township Highway Department building or construction yard.
Each count of the indictment carries a sentence of up to 20 years in prison, meaning all three defendants could face up to life in prison. According to court documents, federal prosecutors will also seek to have Czernek forfeit more than $27,500 from his bank accounts, as well as three vehicles he purchased with his illicit money — a 2014 Lexus RX350, a 1966 Buick Wildcat, and a 1981 Chevy Corvette.
The feds also will seek to have Bulldog forfeit more than $275,000 from its accounts, as well as seven large excavation vehicles it purchased with the money it got from the scheme.
A court date has not yet been set for Czernek, Fazio, or Giannini, but court records indicate their preliminary bail has been set at $50,000.