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"Water Department Engineer Charged With Bribery", (Press Release, February 9, 2007)

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2007

CONTACT: Ana Becerra / (773) 478-3526

WATER DEPARTMENT ENGINEER CHARGED WITH BRIBERY

City Inspector General’s Undercover Investigation Leads to Arrest

CHICAGO – City of Chicago Inspector General David Hoffman announced today that City employee Gustavo Ramirez was arrested and charged by criminal complaint with bribery following an undercover investigation by the Inspector General’s Office (“IGO”), in conjunction with the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office. As alleged in the criminal complaint, Ramirez, an Engineering Technician III with the City’s Department of Water Management, bribed an individual he believed was a City building inspector in order to get building code violations removed from the City’s computer system on buildings he owned. In fact, the individual was an undercover IGO investigator acting as a City building inspector. The undercover investigator was wearing recording devices that audiotaped and videotaped most of his conversations and meetings with Ramirez.

As alleged in the complaint, the investigation began when a City employee reported to the IGO that Ramirez had offered the employee a bribe relating to the building code violations. The employee then helped put the undercover IGO investigator in contact with Ramirez. According to the complaint, Ramirez initially paid a bribe of $200 in two installments to the undercover investigator to eliminate building code violations on a garage that had been declared eligible for demolition by the City. Ramirez then asked the undercover investigator to remove building code violations on three other properties Ramirez owned. The complaint also alleges that as payment to have these violations eliminated, Ramirez agreed to pay an additional bribe of $200 and also agreed to provide the undercover investigator with a “key” (a large tool) that the undercover investigator could use to turn back on water service at a property where the water service had been shut off. Ramirez paid $140 toward this second bribe before he stopped returning the undercover investigator’s calls.

“This case was made possible by a City employee who knew the difference between right and wrong, and came forward to us so that this illegal conduct could be caught,” said Inspector General David Hoffman. “Everyone in City government must be clear on this point – City benefits and services are not for sale to someone seeking to pass a bribe. When the one doing the bribing is a City employee, it is a particularly outrageous act. I urge anyone who learns of illegal conduct in City government to come forward to us. We have the resources and the experience to use all available investigative techniques to catch corruption where it occurs, and to protect integrity in City government.”

The criminal complaint charges Ramirez, 49, with bribery, a Class 2 felony that carries a maximum sentence of seven years’ imprisonment. Ramirez was arrested yesterday, February 8, by Chicago Police Officers assigned to the IGO and had a bond hearing in the Circuit Court of Cook County today, February 9. The case is being prosecuted by the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office, Public Corruption Unit.

The facts alleged in the complaint are summarized below:

Initial Meeting With Ramirez and First Bribe Payment

In November 2006, Ramirez contacted a City employee about building code violations he had received on a garage at a property he owned. As a result of the violations, the garage was eligible for demolition. Ramirez asked the employee to help him out by removing the violations from the computer system, and said that he would take care of the employee. The employee asked for Ramirez’s number and then reported the matter to the IGO.

Through the cooperation of the City employee, an undercover IGO investigator contacted Ramirez and claimed to be a Buildings Department employee who could help Ramirez with his violations. Later that day, the undercover investigator met with Ramirez at the property. Ramirez suggested that he give the undercover investigator $200 to remove the violations, and the undercover investigator agreed. Ramirez gave the undercover investigator $60 and said the undercover investigator should call him to get the rest of the money.

Following this meeting, the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office applied for and obtained an order authorizing the IGO to record conversations in this investigation. From this point forward in the investigation, the conversations and meetings between Ramirez and the undercover investigator were recorded.

Second Bribe Payment

Ramirez and the undercover investigator met again at Ramirez’s property on December 4. In the undercover investigator’s car, Ramirez handed him $140, constituting the remainder of the $200 bribe. Ramirez then asked when they could “do another one” because he had building code violations on other properties that he owned. Ramirez said, “As long as I get a wholesale price, I’ll give you the violations. I don’t mind. I’d rather give you the money than the mayor.”

During this meeting, the undercover investigator told Ramirez that one of his “partners” had his water service shut off. Ramirez responded that he could “get [the undercover investigator] the key,” a reference to the large tool used to turn water service on and off. Additional bribe relating to other properties owned by Ramirez

In subsequent conversations, Ramirez gave the undercover investigator the details regarding the violations on three additional properties that Ramirez owned, so that the undercover investigator could remove them from the City’s computer system. The violations included defective/missing exterior stairs, defective roof, defective window frames, defective eaves, and uncut/high weeds.

On December 15, Ramirez and the undercover investigator met again at a restaurant at 47th and Ashland. They agreed that as to three of the violations, Ramirez would pay $50 each to the undercover investigator to remove them from the City computer system. For a fourth violation, they agreed on $150 since it was already pending with the City’s Department of Administrative Hearings.

On December 18, Ramirez and the undercover investigator met again, this time on the street at 601 West Adams. At the meeting, Ramirez gave the undercover investigator $140 of the total $200 bribe they had agreed on. Ramirez said he would have the rest of the money for the undercover investigator by the end of the week.

The next day Ramirez told the undercover investigator over the phone that he needed a permit for a porch at one of his buildings that had existing violations. Ramirez asked the undercover investigator, “Can you waive the permit or get a permit without plans?” The undercover investigator asked when Ramirez needed the permit by and Ramirez said January 3rd. Ramirez also told the undercover investigator that he had the plumbing key and could get it to the undercover investigator by the end of the week. Ramirez did not subsequently contact the undercover investigator, however, and the undercover investigator’s calls to Ramirez into January 2007 either went unanswered or were quickly cut off by Ramirez.

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Download the official complaint

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