Cicero lost $12.3 million, Irs agent tells court

Cicero lost $12.3 million, IRS agent tells court

By Matt O’Connor
Tribune staff reporter
Published July 23, 2002

Prosecutors alleged for the first time Monday that corruption in the administration of Cicero’s health insurance claims cost the town $12.3 million in the mid-1990s.

Michael Welch, a revenue agent for the Internal Revenue Service, testified that Specialty Risk Consultants, the company at the heart of the fraud scheme, received almost $33.8 million from the town from 1992 through 1997.

But only $21.5 million went toward legitimate insurance expenses, Welch said. The government alleges the rest–$12.3 million–was stolen.

The indictment charges that at least $10 million was looted from town coffers with the aid of Town President Betty Loren-Maltese and former town officials Emil Schullo and Joseph DeChicio. Since May, the three town officials have been on trial in U.S. District Court along with reputed Cicero mob boss Michael Spano Sr. and his son Michael Jr.; business partner John LaGiglio and his wife, Bonnie; and attorney Charles Schneider.

In other testimony Monday, Sally J. Kopke, a certified public accountant, said that in 1996 she assisted attorney Arthur Nasser, her brother-in-law, in trying to prepare tax returns for Specialty Risk Consultants.

In one meeting, Kopke said, Schneider told Nasser to “try to keep Betty [Loren-Maltese] away from this as far as possible.”

On cross-examination, however, Kopke said she was never instructed to falsify anything.

U.S. District Senior Judge John Grady barred Kopke from testifying about what she said were remarks by Nasser as they pored over Specialty Risk records. Outside the jury’s presence, Kopke quoted Nasser as saying that John LaGiglio was “just too greedy.”

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