Indictment announced against patronage scandal figure

Tribune reporter

A one-time steakhouse busboy who became a key player in a patronage scandal involving former Cook County Board President Todd Stroger was indicted today on charges he fraudulently collected state and federal housing assistance by hiding his $60,000-a-year county job.

Tony Cole, 32, was charged with two counts of theft of government property and one count of state benefits fraud totaling more than $5,000.
Prosecutors said that when Cole, a onetime college basketball star from Louisiana with a long rap sheet, applied to live at a South Side apartment complex in January 2008, he told the staff he was unemployed and had recently relocated after surviving Hurricane Katrina.

Based on his application, Cole was awarded federal and state housing assistance of $700 per month for rent and $97 for utilities, prosecutors said.

In October 2008, Stroger personally hired Cole as a human resources assistant in the county highway department after meeting him when he worked as a busboy at Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse.

In his six-month employment, Cole was promoted twice by Stroger, eventually being paid $29.34 an hour, prosecutors said.
In February 2009, Cole filled out a renewal lease application that again misstated his income and employment, according to prosecutors.
“At that time, Cole signed documents in which he stated that he had no income, no employment and had no intention of finding employment, despite being employed by Cook County with an effective $60,000 annual salary,” prosecutors said.
Cole’s hiring exploded into a political scandal in 2009 that led to calls for Stroger’s resignation and the ousting of his cousin, Donna Dunnings, from her job as the county’s top financial officer because of her connections to Cole.
Stroger fired Cole in April 2009, saying he had concealed his felony record.

The apartment complex where Cole had been living evicted him after seeing news reports of his arrests and employment with the county, according to prosecutors.

Copyright © 2018, CT Now