Home Chicago Press Releases 2010 City Inspector Convicted of Bribery in Probe of Crooked Permits
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City Inspector Convicted of Bribery in Probe of Crooked Permits

U.S. Attorney’s Office September 23, 2010
  • Northern District of Illinois (312) 353-5300

CHICAGO—A federal jury today convicted a City of Chicago building inspector of federal bribery charges for accepting two $1,000 cash bribes from a cooperating contractor and demanding two $2,000 cash bribes from developers to approve inspections at residential and commercial construction sites, federal law enforcement officials and the city’s Inspector General announced today. Evidence at the trial, which began Monday, showed that defendant, Jose Hernandez, solicited or obtained cash bribes totaling tens of thousands of dollars from contractors, developers, and homeowners since at least 2005. The jury deliberated about six hours yesterday and today before finding Hernandez guilty on all four counts of bribery that were brought against him last year.

Hernandez, 47, of Chicago, a building inspector since 1988, faces a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine on each count. U.S. District Judge David Coar scheduled sentencing on Dec. 14. Hernandez is the 15th city inspector and the 19th defendant overall to be convicted as part of a federal corruption investigation, code-named Operation Crooked Code. A total of 27 defendants, including 17 city inspectors, have been charged since the investigation became public in 2007.

The trial evidence showed that Hernandez had a corrupt relationship with a permit “expediter” since approximately late 2005, and with a contractor since 2007, both of whom have been cooperating in the investigation. Hernandez accepted a $1,000 bribe from the cooperating contractor on Aug. 21, 2008, when Hernandez performed what’s known as a “rough inspection”—an inspection of the framing, electrical wiring, plumbing, and ventilation ducts before the interior walls are sealed—at a single-family residence in the 9900 block of South Throop in Chicago. At the time of the inspection, the interior walls were covered with drywall, rendering a legitimate inspection impossible, but Hernandez signed the building permit, saying “rough frame approved.”

Hernandez also accepted $1,000 from the same contractor on Aug. 10, 2009, to approve a residential rough inspection in the 700 block of West Cornelia. He was also convicted of demanding $2,000 bribes from two different developers to not issue stop work orders at commercial buildings at 650 North Dearborn in June 2007 and at 11250 South Michigan in April 2006.

The conviction was announced by Patrick J. Fitzgerald, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; Thomas P. Brady, Postal Inspector-in-Charge of the U.S. Postal Inspection Service in Chicago; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Joseph Ferguson, Inspector General for the City of Chicago.

Anyone with information about alleged corruption in the city permit process is encouraged to contact the City Inspector General’s Office either through their hotline—(866) 448-4754—or through their website at www.chicagoinspectorgeneral.org.

The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys April Perry and Steven Grimes.

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