Fittest loser
Article updated: 10/28/2013 4:15 PM

Cook County analysts guilty of taking bribes to lower assessments

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Two former Cook County Board of Review analysts were convicted Monday of accepting a $1,500 bribe to lower assessments on several properties.

The Chicago men, who are half-brothers, also were found guilty by a federal jury of conspiracy and fraud charges. The fraud conviction carries the harshest penalty, with a maximum prison sentence of 20 years and a $250,000 fine.

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Jurors deliberated less than two days before convicting Thomas Hawkins, 49, and John Racasi, 52.

Hawkins had worked for the Board of Review since 2004 and Racasi since 2006. Their job was to study property assessment appeals and advise Board of Review Commissioner Larry Rogers Jr. of the merits of the complaint before he voted on the appeal with the two other commissioners. It takes two of the three commissioners to vote in favor of an appeal for property owners to see a reduction in their property's assessed value.

At trial, prosecutors outlined how a former Chicago police officer who began cooperating with the FBI in 2008 was introduced to Hawkins and then Racasi. The informant, who is awaiting sentencing on other federal charges, recorded numerous meetings and conversations with the analysts. During these conversations, informant Ali Haleem negotiated a $1,500 payment to the analysts in exchange for assessment reductions on properties in Chicago, Burbank and Tinley Park.

Prosecutors said the men were expecting another bribe payment from Haleem for facilitating property assessment reductions on 10 condominium units in Chicago.

Both men remain free on bond while awaiting sentencing scheduled for Feb. 25.

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