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updated: 10/31/2013 9:42 PM

Cook forest preserve engineer charged in kickback plot

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A former Cook County Forest Preserve District engineer faces federal bribery charges for, prosecutors say, accepting $10,000 in kickbacks for work performed at two district facilities.

Joseph Mollica, 52, of Elmwood Park was arrested Oct. 3. Mollica was an assistant engineer for the district for more than 20 years until last week. He and others at the district have authority to influence and award contracts for work under $25,000, according to prosecutors.

In Mollica's case, prosecutors said he accepted a $6,000 kickback on a $24,900 contract to refurbish the district's River Forest headquarters in October 2011. A few months later, authorities said, he accepted $4,000 from a $16,500 contract to power wash and stain the building and boardwalk at the Sand Ridge Nature Center in Calumet City.

Both contracts were being scrutinized by the FBI at the time as part of a sting operation, prosecutors said. Meetings between the contractor and Mollica were recorded, prosecutors said.

Mollica is free on his own recognizance. He is facing a maximum 10-year prison sentence if convicted as well as a possible $250,000 fine.

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