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updated: 10/11/2012 11:19 AM

Important safety tip: Keep your Chicago bribes under $5,000

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Associated Press

An appeals court has reversed the bribery conviction of a Chicago zoning inspector on grounds the value of two $600 payoffs he received wasn't high enough.

The 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago issued the ruling Thursday.

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Dominick Owens was arrested in 2009 for allegedly accepting $1,200 to issue certificates permitting owners to occupy their homes after construction. He allegedly issued them without inspections.

His 2011 conviction stemmed from an investigation of inspectors dubbed "Operation Crooked Code." It led to more than a dozen arrests.

An FBI affidavit said Owens accepted thousands of dollars from a cooperating witness.

But the court found prosecutors failed to prove the value of the bribes was $5,000 or more as required under the law used to convict Owens.

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