A onetime top aide to former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger was sentenced Friday to more than four years in prison for steering county contracts to cronies in return for $35,000 in kickbacks.
Eugene Mullins marks the second high-level aide to Stroger to be convicted of wrongdoing. Carla Oglesby, Stroger’s former deputy chief of staff, was convicted last August on state charges of theft and money laundering for stealing more than $300,000 through the use of fraudulent contracts and kickbacks. She faces at least six years in prison at sentencing.
In seeking probation, Mullins’ attorneys argued that four contractors lied when they testified that Mullins directed the two-year kickback scheme involving $100,000 in county disaster grants, census work and other contracts.
But U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve said it was Mullins who had perjured himself when he testified he was not in charge of the contracts and never accepted any kickbacks. A jury convicted him in September of seven counts of bribery and wire fraud.
In sentencing Mullins to 51 months in prison, St. Eve said she needed to send a message that public corruption does not pay.
“You were a public official...You should have acted in the public’s best interests, but you didn’t,” the judge told Mullins, a friend of Stroger’s since childhood. “The citizens of Cook County deserve better.”
St. Eve also ordered Mullins to pay $34,700 in restitution to the county.
Prosecutors allege that Mullins, 50, a former Chicago police officer, used his position as a trusted member of Stroger's staff to orchestrate a scheme to award contracts of less than $25,000 each so County Board approval wouldn’t be needed.
Prosecutors dismissed the charges against the contractors who testified at Mullins’ trial after their cooperation was complete and they had paid restitution.
In an impassioned and sometimes rambling speech Friday, Mullins’ attorney, Brunell Donald-Kyei, likened the case to the Salem witch trials in 17th century Massachusetts and mocked the idea that Mullins had the power to mastermind the scheme.
“Not one document had his signature on it or his initials on it,” she said. “...The media spokesperson was the puppeteer in charge of contracts and cutting checks? I don’t think so.”
Donald-Kyei said Mullins “has been in a prison of regret” for leaving the police department in 2008 to help Stroger, who was voted out of office in 2010 after a tumultuous term. She said Mullins, who has a doctorate and several masters degrees, has been unable to find work because he’s been “blackballed” by his enemies.