Corrections Officers Among Seven Charged in Kickback Scheme

Feds say defendants conspired to pay kickbacks to a fictitious federal agency official in return for $25,000 in grants from the agency

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    A campaign treasurer for a former Illinois state senator and two Cook County Sheriff's Department corrections officers were among seven defendants charged Tuesday with conspiracy to commit bribery, federal officials said.

    Dean Nichols, 62, of Oak Park, was charged with three counts of bribery conspiracy, and Elliott Kozel, 51, Chicago, was charged with four counts. Reggi Hopkins, 43, of Chicago; Anthony Johnson, 59, of Chicago; Mary Smith, 54, of South Holland; Regina Hollie, 48, of Chicago; and Bryant Jessup, 51, of Chicago, were each charged with one count of bribery conspiracy, according to a press release.

    Federal officials said the defendants conspired to pay kickbacks to a fictitious official in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in return for multiple $25,000 in grants from the agency.

    All appeared Tuesday before before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole, some of them dressed only in the underwear and undershirts they had on when they were arrested.

    The investigation was aided, officials said, by a Chicago police officer who began cooperating with them four years ago during an investigation of public corruption and gun trafficking in the Chicago area.

    The officer has known Nichols, who worked for former Sen. Rickey Hendon, for more than 20 years. The officer connected Nichols to the phony HHS official, and Nichols then brought others into the scheme, including Kozel, a corrections officer, and Smith, Kozel's supervisor, feds said.

    Hopkins, Johnson, Jessup and Hollie were allegedly willing to submit applications to obtain the HHS grants, officials said.

    Each count of conspiracy to commit bribery carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison
    and a $250,000 fine.

    Rickey "Hollywood" Hendon abruptly resigned in February 2011 after serving Illinois' 5th District for 19 years. Months earlier, a federal grand jury issued subpoenas for records during an investigation into the possible misuse of state funds.

    Criminal Complaint Against Nichols et al: