Monday, February 20, 2006

Chicago Water Department Worker Charged With Lying To Feds

A Chicago city worker fired for being AWOL from his water department job was charged Tuesday with lying to federal agents in the government's two-year investigation of Chicago's corruption-plagued Hired Truck Program. Frank Cannatello, 30, of Chicago became the forty-third person charged in the investigation that recently has branched out to include alleged city hiring fraud by Mayor Richard M. Daley's former patronage chief and other political operatives.

The Hired Truck Program, which cost taxpayers $38 million at its peak two years ago, was designed to save money by allowing the city to outsource its hauling work to private truckers. Prosecutors say the program has been awash in payoff money and fraud. Some of the companies that got sizable payouts through the program are tied to the mob.

Cannatello was charged with one count of lying to federal agents Dec. 14 when he said he had nothing to do with FRC Trucking Co., which made $187,000 in Hired Truck payments in three years. Ownership of the now dissolved company was listed to a female relative. Prosecutors said Cannatello helped to organize and operate the company. A message seeking comment was left Tuesday at the office of Cannatello's lawyer, Richard Jalovec.

Among other things, prosecutors said Cannatello asked another city worker, Randy Aderman, to help FRC get city hauling work and Aderman did so through the water department. Aderman already has been charged in the investigation along with former city Clerk James Laski. Aderman appeared for arraignment before U.S. District Judge Charles R. Norgle Sr. on Tuesday and pleaded not guilty. Norgle set a status hearing in the case for March 13.

Cannatello's cousin, John Canatello, 60, of suburban Palos Park and Marco Island, Fla., was sentenced Jan. 19 to 27 months in federal prison, fined $14,000 and ordered to forfeit $100,000 for taking part in a payoff scheme to get Hired Truck business for another trucking company.

Frank Cannatello was among nine employees fired by the city water department on orders from Daley last June after it was discovered that they had been electronically logged in at their jobs at the city's Jardine Filtration Plant when in fact they were elsewhere. Officials said a two-month review of security tapes showed the employees had used each other's identification cards to make it appear that they were working when they were not.

Another former water department employee fired last June and now indicted along with Laski and Aderman is John Briatta, who is the brother-in-law of Cook County Commissioner John Daley -- the mayor's brother. Briatta, who is to be arraigned before Norgle on Thursday, is charged with accepting payoffs from Aderman in exchange for Hired Truck Program assignments.

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