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Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Chicago Rev. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr., pastor of Chicago's Trinity United Church of Christ and former pastor of Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama, D-Ill., addresses a breakfast gathering at the National Press Club in Washington, Monday, April 28, 2008. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)  

Grant fraud probe includes suspects with ties to Obama, Wright

Chuck Ross
Reporter, Daily Caller News Foundation

Illinois state workers with ties to President Obama and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright have been charged with fraud involving grants from state health and commerce departments, according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

In total, 13 state workers have been charged after a multi-year investigation found fraudulent state grant and contract activity adding up to more than $16 million, including embezzlement from an AIDS benefit organization.

The numerous cases — some of which stretch back to 2011 — were investigated by the U.S. Postal Service, the Internal Revenue Service and the Illinois Secretary of State’s office, according to the Sun-Times.

Jeri L. Wright, whose father was Obama’s controversial pastor, is charged with money laundering and making false statements to a grand jury.

Wright said she is a “close associate and friend” with Regina and Ronald Evans. Mrs. Evans is the former police chief of Country Club Hills, Ill.

The Evanses will soon be sentenced for embezzling nearly half of a $1.25 million commerce grant. The couple admitted that they spent the loot on personal debt and gifts for friends.

Quinshaunta Golden is the former chief of staff to long-time Obama friend Eric E. Whitaker, the former head of the Illinois Department of Public Health. Jones is accused of skimming $433,000 in kickbacks on health department grants and contracts, according to the Sun-Times.

The Sun-Times reported that Whitaker is cooperating with the investigation and had no knowledge of Golden’s scheme.

Retired south side Chicago state Rep. Connie Howard, a Democrat, admitted to embezzling tens of thousands of dollars for personal and political use, according to the Sun-Times.

Howard co-founded Let’s Talk, Let’s Test, which was devoted to ending the scourge of AIDS in Chicago’s black community. The former executive director of the group is accused of embezzling hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money for personal use.

Other examples of fraud include two members of the National Black Nurses Association. Margaret Davis admitted to spending half a million dollars on personal mortgage and credit card payments. Her associate, Tonja Cook, admitted to helping in the scheme.

Also set for trial is Chicago businessman Leon Dingle Jr. and his wife Karin. They are accused of using $3 million in health grants for various personal investments.

Jacqueline Kilpatrick and Edward Clemons, associates of the Dingles, are accused of using $700,000 in embezzled funds to pay for a vacation home in South Carolina as well as luxury cars and a fur coat.

Brian Costin, director of government reform at the Illinois Policy Institute, said that the large investigation is evidence of widespread systemic issues.

“Grant fraud has been a problem in Illinois for many years,” Costin told The Daily Caller News Foundation in a phone interview. “There’s virtually no transparency or accountability measures built into the system.”

Costin said that bills proposing increased transparency are routinely shot down by the state legislature.

“Some people had connections in one way or another to the President, and maybe they felt ‘hey, we can get away with this,’” said Costin who said that he is very worried about the potential for widespread fraud with the implementation of Obamacare.

“There are a lot of grants being given out to various local agencies to make this push to register people for Obamacare or Medicaid,” he said. “Is there going to be transparency over this process?”

Over $190 million worth of no-bid contracts will be issued to help track track, store, and process the state’s cases under Obamacare, according to a recent Fox News report. The massive program will require many states to upgrade their information technology systems.

Illinois was able to circumvent the contract bidding process by partnering with the state of Michigan which uses the Maryland-based company Client Network Services Incorporated to process its Medicaid claims.

Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal cancelled a contract with CNSI after the company was targeted in an investigation into possible criminal activity over the procurement of a $200 million contract.

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