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updated: 8/2/2017 6:18 PM

Former Cook County Assessor's Office employee pleads guilty in kickback scheme

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A former Cook County Assessor's Office employee pleaded guilty to taking more than $9,000 in kickbacks from property owners in exchange for helping them obtain fraudulent tax refunds.

Maria Gonzalez, 64, pleaded guilty Tuesday to two counts of theft and one count of official misconduct in exchange for two years probation. She was also ordered to pay $40,000 in restitution and $719 in fines, court records show.

Gonzalez, who worked as a tax information specialist in the assessor's office, was responsible for processing applications for an Homeowner Exemption Certificate of Error. Cook County property owners are entitled to a homeowner exemption credit, which reduces property taxes, if the property serves as the owner's primary residence for the tax year.

Gonzalez was responsible for verifying that the property owner was entitled to a refund after overpaying the tax, according to prosecutors. They say on four occasions between April 16, 2010, and Feb. 12, 2011, Gonzalez accepted kickbacks for helping property owners obtain refunds to which they were not entitled. She reportedly asked for kickbacks of between 20 and 50 percent, authorities said.

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