Fraud in Chicago? Unpossible! But that’s just what happened with a lucrative landscaping contract with the Chicago school system. (Little known fact: a well-decorated topiary garden can increase a fourth-grader’s capacity for learning by up to 30 percent.) Former Chicago Bears fullback Roland Harper managed to get himself caught in the middle, but the CHICAGO SUN-TIMES says that a judge ruled he was an unwitting dupe in a larger scheme, sparing him prison time and instead sentenced him to two years of probation for his role in the scheme, including a year of house arrest.
According to prosecutors, Chicago landscaping contractor Aidan Monahan really wanted a $1.5 million contract with Chicago Public Schools, but it was set aside for minority-owned businesses. So Monahan came up with a plan that made up for what it lacked in subtelty by being totally illegal. Monahan approached Harper (who is black) and eventually used Harper’s Rohar Construction company as a front to get the contract.
Harper claims he went into the deal with honest intentions: he thought he would learn about the landscaping business from the more-experienced Monahan, allowing him to expand his construction business. But even though it became pretty clear that he was just being used as a false front by Monahan to fraudulently get a contract, Harper eventually went along with it, getting $80,000 for his “efforts.”
U.S. District Judge John Darrah said that Harper’s willingness to cooperate with the government (including recording certain conversations to help sink Monahan) and an “extraordinary” number of letters supporting Harper helped persuade him to go easy on him. Even though - and again, this might shock some of you, there is apparently some corruption in Chicago.
“This is a city that’s just fraught with corruption,” Darrah said. But “it’s clear that no criminal court in this country will ever see you again.”
In the end, Darrah decided that Monahan was the real bad guy in this case - he had already received a 41-month prison sentence - and that the loss of reputation suffered by Harper was punishment enough.