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updated: 8/23/2013 3:08 PM

Former Cook County assessor's clerk charged with stealing tax refunds

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A former Cook County Assessor's office clerk is charged with theft and misconduct for her role in what prosecutors allege was a nearly four-year "financial crimes scheme."

Dionne Cooper, 43, of Hazel Crest, is accused of submitting about 100 fraudulent tax refund requests and splitting the proceeds with an unnamed co-conspirator. Prosecutors said Cooper, who worked in the assessor's office for 16 years, pocketed a share of the $112,342 they believe was illegally refunded between October 2009 and April 2012. She is charged with theft of government property and official misconduct.

"While this alleged behavior began under the prior administration, we have and will continue to cooperate fully with the state's attorney's office," said Cristina Villarreal, a spokeswoman for Cook County Assessor Joseph Berrios.

Using "certificate of error applications" given to her by the co-conspirator, Cooper would process the fake requests and the county treasurer's office would issue the refunds, prosecutors said. The applications allow property owners to recoup funds if it is determined they overpaid their taxes.

Prosecutors said the checks were mailed to the co-conspirator, who cashed them and shared the proceeds with Cooper.

Officials at Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez's office would not comment on why the co-conspirator has yet to be charged with any crime, noting that the case was still under investigation. The investigation is a joint operation by the state's attorney's financial crimes unit and the Chicago Police Department, officials said.

Cooper left the assessor's office in May 2012 and is currently the park district director in south suburban Harvey. An office manager at the parks office said Cooper was not at work Friday morning.

Cooper appeared in court Thursday for a bond hearing. A judge set her bond at $25,000. Sheriff's officials said Cooper posted bail Thursday morning and was released. Cooper is scheduled to appear in court again Sept. 12.

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