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updated: 9/5/2012 11:53 PM

DuPage forest preserve employees charged in fraud scheme

2 DuPage tech employees, contractor accused of six-year kickback scheme

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Two former DuPage County Forest Preserve District employees have been charged with stealing more than $100,000 from the district over a six-year period, capping a months-long probe that involved the assistance of the FBI.

The DuPage County state's attorney's office announced the charges late Wednesday night against the former director of the information technology department, Mark McDonald, and the department manager, David Tepper.

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McDonald, 53, of the 1000 block of Childs Street in Wheaton, and Tepper, 49, of the 300 block of Franklin Avenue in River Forest, are accused of running two separate "elaborate" schemes that swindled the district out of more than $150,000.

A third man, 37-year-old Arif Mahmood of Glendale Heights, who worked as a contractor with the forest preserve district, was accused of being involved in one of the schemes.

In the first scheme, while acting as co-owners of Integrated Design Solutions, McDonald and Tepper billed the forest preserve district for more than $90,000 worth of equipment and services that were never delivered from July 2005 through November 2011, according to the state's attorney's office.

The men involved Mahmood in their second scheme, according to prosecutors.

Mahmood, the owner of now-shuttered Alamach Technology Inc., overbilled the forest preserve district for contracted work and subcontracted with McDonald and Tepper's Integrated Design Solutions in the amount overbilled for the services that were never provided, authorities said. Prosecutors allege that the scheme netted McDonald and Tepper more than $64,000 in kickbacks.

Mahmood, of the 400 block of Greenbriar Drive, is accused of stealing more than $10,000 from the district.

Records show that between November 2009 and October 2011 the forest preserve paid Chicago-based Alamach at least $488,000 for services.

"It is alleged that these individuals took advantage of the public trust and lined their own pockets at taxpayer's expense," said DuPage County State's Attorney Robert Berlin in a written statement.

McDonald and Tepper were each charged with felony theft, unlawful participation, official misconduct and kickbacks, while Mahmood has been charged with theft and kickbacks.

Tepper was released after posting $30,000 of his $300,000 bail, and Mahmood was released after posting $20,000 of this $200,000 bail. Authorities took McDonald into custody late Wednesday, and he was being held overnight at the DuPage County jail pending an 8 a.m. bond hearing today.

At the start of the investigation, which began during the summer of 2011, forest preserve district officials paid a computer forensic company more than $61,000 to investigate whether taxpayer funds were being misused by the district's information technology staff. The attorney for the forest preserve said the costly third-party investigation was to ensure accusations against McDonald and Tepper were true. One was fired Nov. 15, while the other resigned Nov. 7.

The forest preserve turned over findings of the investigation to the state's attorney's office three days after the investigation ended.

Sources told the Daily Herald during the investigation that the contracts in question were worth about $12,000 a month. Contracts worth less than $20,000 can be awarded without consent of the forest preserve district board.

During the state's attorney's office investigation, former forest preserve Executive Director Brent Manning retired with a severance bonus of about $51,000 after more than eight years with the district. Officials say Manning wasn't pushed out the door, but the technology contracts in question were awarded on his watch.

In early August, more than a month after Manning retired, forest preserve President D. "Dewey Pierotti Jr. said Manning deserved the bonus, although he admitted the former director deserved "part of the blame."

Manning, 59, said the decision was triggered by personal health and family concerns.

Manning acknowledged in August having met with the FBI, but officials said he did not appear to be a target of the probe.

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