Forest Preserve indictment lists 317 felony charges
By Susan Frick Carlman email@example.com November 9, 2012 2:34PM
From left, Mark McDonald, David Tepper, Arif Mahmood. | Photo courtesy DuPage County State's Attorney's office
Updated: November 10, 2012 6:55PM
Three men — a contractor and two former high-level staff members — face hundreds of new felony charges in connection with alleged kickback schemes at the Forest Preserve District of DuPage County.
Former employees Mark McDonald and David Tepper are both due back in court later this month, each charged with 140 felony counts — one of them a Class X felony, punishable by up to 30 years in prison — in connection with alleged kickbacks, official misconduct and other accusations of malfeasance by the pair over a six-year period.
Also facing 37 felony charges is contractor Arif Mahmood, one of the vendors with whom the two district staff members carried out their alleged crimes, authorities said.
DuPage County State’s Attorney Robert Berlin added more than 300 counts to the original charges late last month. The first few filings came in early September, culminating a 15-month investigation into accusations that through several different schemes, McDonald and Tepper had used their professional positions to try to defraud the government for their own financial gain.
Berlin spokesman Paul Darrah said the many charges don’t necessarily suggest a corresponding number of illegal transactions are being alleged.
“A lot of times, just like in a murder case, you indict (on multiple counts),” Darrah said. “A crime is a crime, and you have to charge what you can.”
Wheaton resident McDonald, 53, was a director when he worked for the district. Tepper, 49, who lives in River Forest, was a manager.
Berlin’s office has said that between July 2005 and November 2007, Integrated Design Solutions, a company co-owned by McDonald and Tepper, billed and received more than $90,000 from the district for equipment and services that were never delivered.
Mahmood, 37, a Glendale Heights resident, is accused of over-billing the district through his computer company, Alamach Technologies. He also is charged with allegedly subcontracting with Integrated Design Solutions and over-billing for services that were never rendered.
The Forest Preserve District ran up more than $100,000 in expenses related to the alleged schemes long before the first charges were filed two months ago.
Commission members hired Naperville specialists JRM Consulting Inc. in July 2011, four months before Tepper and McDonald left the agency payroll. The original $18,000 contract swelled to $61,537 in December, as JRM’s internal computer forensics investigation moved ahead.
The board of commissioners also inked a $48,000 accord with Wheaton communications consultant Dan Curry, co-owner of Reverse Spin, who was brought on board after the suspected misdeeds were revealed, to handle crisis communications. That contract is due to expire this month.
Curry emphasized that the district discovered the suspected crimes and has assisted Berlin’s office with the investigation all along.
“The matter is now in court and we will not comment further on specifics while the case unfolds,” Curry said in an email. “Unfortunately, when a couple of employees of any organization are determined to deceive and scheme to commit crimes, they might be able to go undetected for a time. Clearly, this was an isolated and unfortunate circumstance that should not reflect on any of the other dedicated and professional District employees, who serve the public in an efficient manner every day.”
It remains to be determined how the agency will try to keep the thefts and kickbacks from happening again.
“Administrators are fully reviewing all the facts as they are revealed in court and will make any adjustments in policy and procedures deemed appropriate,” Curry said, adding that efforts have begun toward recovering the public funds that allegedly were taken.
The FBI also was brought in to help, bringing its forensic computer expertise to the investigation, but details about the federal connection were unclear.
“That’s part of the investigation,” said Darrah, who didn’t know if the agency is still involved but said he couldn’t elaborate further. “The investigation does continue, to this day.”