By Ray Long, Rick Pearson and Hal Dardick
10:38 PM EDT, August 7, 2013
A onetime top aide to former state public health director Dr. Eric Whitaker was indicted Wednesday in what federal authorities said was a $433,000 grant kickback scam she then tried to cover up.
Quinshaunta R. Golden allegedly used her position as Whitaker's chief of staff to issue millions of dollars in state grants. There was no indication in the indictment that Whitaker, a close friend of President Barack Obama, knew about the alleged wrongdoing.
Golden, the niece of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, is the 13th person to be charged in a federal task force's ongoing investigation of state grant and contract fraud. The probe already has claimed the political career of former state Rep. Connie Howard, who pleaded guilty last month to diverting as much as $28,000 from a scholarship fund she created to benefit needy students.
According to the new indictment, starting in 2006, Golden directed grants to an unidentified security firm to do background checks on potential residents of nursing homes, which are overseen by the Illinois Department of Public Health. Under Golden, the state agency also issued grants to nonprofits run by Leon Dingle Jr.
Golden is alleged to have had Dingle hire a person, identified in the indictment only as "Individual A," as a paid consultant. Individual A also was a paid consultant of the security firm.
The consultant collected more than $1 million in grant and contract money originally given to Dingle's groups and the security firm, the indictment states. The consultant was supposed to kick back half of the money to Golden, who collected $433,000 in the scam, according to the indictment.
As the grand jury heated up in February 2012, prosecutors said Golden also sought to influence the testimony of the consultant, including urging the individual to say the grant money was used "for gambling and other personal expenses." Golden also is charged with witness tampering/obstruction of justice.
Golden, who could not be reached for comment, also served on the board of the Cook County health system until she resigned in February.
Dingle, wife Karin Dingle and two associates were charged last October in a grant scheme. Prosecutors said the couple lived a lavish lifestyle bankrolled in part by $3.7 million in state money designed for cancer- and AIDS-related programs. Instead of using the money in the fight against serious illnesses, the Dingles and an associate used the cash to help pay for Mercedes-Benzes, sporting event tickets, yacht club expenses, a Marina Towers condo, a fur coat and vacation homes on the East Coast, prosecutors said.
The Dingles operated the for-profit Advance Health, Social and Educational Associates Inc. and allegedly told state officials the grants would be used for three not-for-profit groups: a longtime coalition called the Broadcast Ministers Alliance of Chicago, Access Wellness and Racial Equity and the Medical Health Association.
Whitaker, who golfed with Obama during the president's 52nd birthday celebration last weekend, left the state public health department in late 2007 to work with Michelle Obama at the University of Chicago Medicine. Golden left her state job in early 2008 and joined Whitaker at U. of C. Whitaker, who left the U. of C. this year, could not be reached for comment.
The federal investigation also led to charges against two officials with the Chicago chapter of the National Black Nurses Association that grant money was diverted for personal use. In June, Lloyd Kelly, a former aide to Rep. Howard, was charged with mail fraud. Kelly is accused of spending more than $217,000 in state AIDS awareness grant money on a house and football game skyboxes.
Tribune reporter Hal Dardick contributed.
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