By Ray Long and Jennifer Delgado, Chicago Tribune –
SPRINGFIELD, Ill. — A Chicagoan who served several years as an Illinois Medical District commissioner is among four people indicted for what federal authorities portray as living a lavish lifestyle bankrolled by $3.7 million in state funds designated for cancer- and AIDS-related programs.
Instead of using the money in the fight against serious illnesses, the cash helped pay for luxury cars, sporting event tickets, yacht club expenses, a Marina Towers condo, a fur coat and vacation getaway homes on the East Coast, according to the charges announced Friday.
The far-reaching money laundering case against Leon Dingle Jr., 75, and his wife, Karin, 73, represent the latest move by federal authorities based in Springfield, Ill., to delve into alleged abuse of social service and faith-based grants at the Illinois Department of Public Health and other agencies dating to the early years of the administration of imprisoned former Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
The Dingles operated the for-profit Advance Health, Social and Educational Associates Inc., and employed Jacquelyn Kilpatrick, 57, of south suburban Phoenix, a bookkeeper and top official also indicted. Edmond Clemons, who operated Jeck Consultants and lived at the same Phoenix address, also was charged in the 23-count indictment.
With Kilpatrick’s help, Leon Dingle landed more than $11 million in grants from the state health agency, authorities said. The money was intended for programs tied to breast, cervical and prostate cancer, HIV/AIDS and emergency preparedness. Federal authorities said most of the money was paid upfront and handed out through contracts that were not put up for competitive bidding.
Dingle and Kilpatrick 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, a group known as AWARE and founded in 2007; and Medical Health Association, founded in 2008. Both of the latter groups were established by Dingle associates to provide medical consulting services, authorities said.
Ronald Clark, attorney for Karin Dingle, said his client was indicted because she shared some of the “benefits” her husband made under the grants. He said there are no allegations that she knowingly committed fraud, other than accusations that she didn’t pay some of her taxes.
Clark said Karin Dingle sometimes works in the offices of Advance Health, Social and Educational Associates Inc., but the organization is run by her husband. “I think the whole indictment is a real stretch, and we’ll be successful in contesting it,” Clark said.
The other defendants could not be reached for comment.
Prosecutors contend the Dingles’ company collected about $7.4 million, including about $3 million the couple and their family members received. Karin Dingle allegedly tapped into the grant for cash and bought certificates of deposit worth $300,000.
Expenses at the Chicago Yacht Club, the South Carolina Yacht Club and the Mid-America Club allegedly were covered by the state funds. State money also was appropriated to maintain a condo in Marina Towers used by Kilpatrick and a family member, authorities said. The Dingles and Kilpatrick also bought several Mercedes-Benzes, prosecutors say.