Defense calls case against former forest IT staff a 'witch hunt'

  • David Tepper

    David Tepper

  • Arif Mahmood

    Arif Mahmood

  • Mark McDonald

    Mark McDonald

 
 
Updated 9/15/2015 12:22 AM

DuPage County prosecutors on Monday outlined a series of schemes in which they say a former DuPage County Forest Preserve employee and an outside vendor conspired to steal more than $150,000 from the district.

David Tepper, 51, of the 300 block of Franklin Avenue in River Forest, and his former supervisor Mark McDonald, 55, of the 1000 block of Childs Street in Wheaton, are accused of running the schemes.

 

A third man, 39-year-old Arif Mahmood of Glendale Heights, who worked as a contractor with the forest preserve district, also is accused of being involved.

McDonald was set to stand trial Monday with Tepper and Mahmood, but was severed from the case due to an illness and will stand trial separately at a later date.

In the first scheme, while acting as co-owners of Integrated Design Solutions, McDonald and Tepper billed the forest preserve district for more than $90,000 worth of equipment and services that were never delivered from July 2005 through November 2011, prosecutors said.

"(Tepper) was the manager of IT and he was a salaried employee. It was a good salary," Assistant State's Attorney Fred Flather said during opening arguments. "But that wasn't enough for him, so he had to work three schemes to get more forest preserve money into his pockets."

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Mahmood, the owner of now-shuttered Alamach Technology Inc., overbilled the forest preserve district for contracted work and subcontracted with Tepper's and McDonald's Integrated Design Solutions in the amount overbilled for the services that were never provided, Flather said.

"(Mahmood) was funneling money to people at the forest preserve who helped him get contracts to do more work," Flather said.

Records show that between November 2009 and October 2011 the forest preserve paid Chicago-based Alamach at least $488,000 for services.

Tepper and McDonald are each charged with felony theft, unlawful participation, official misconduct and accepting kickbacks, while Mahmood has been charged with theft and kickbacks.

Terry Ekl, representing Tepper, called the charges a witch hunt by the district to cover up its own mismanagement. He said the district received every service and piece of hardware it paid for.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                       
 

"The forest preserve district had no tracking system for anything. They got everything they contracted to receive," Ekl said. "This is a grossly overcharged indictment."

Christopher O'Malley, representing Mahmood, said Mahmood was an IT specialist who "did good work for a department that needed it."

O'Malley said Mahmood saw nothing wrong with contracting work with Integrated Design Solutions, which was an approved vendor of the district's.

"(Mahmood) was not engaged in any corrupt activity," O'Malley said. "The district got exactly what it paid for."

That will be hard to prove, however, because O'Malley said the district either removed or wiped clean and repurposed hardware that would have proved the work Mahmood did.

At the start of the investigation, which began during the summer of 2011, forest preserve district officials paid a computer forensic company more than $61,000 to investigate whether taxpayer funds were being misused by the district's information technology staff. The attorney for the forest preserve said the costly third-party investigation was to ensure accusations against McDonald and Tepper were true.

Tepper and McDonald are free on $300,000 bail. Mahmood is free on $200,000 bail.

Testimony resumes at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday with former forest preserve Executive Director Brent Manning on the witness stand. Now retired, Manning was never the target of the investigation, but the technology contracts in question were awarded on his watch.

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