The feds already had their eyes on Elizabeth Perino.
Agents had even interviewed her in 2009, hoping the Willowbrook businesswoman would flip on construction giant McHugh Construction, according to her attorney. But two years later, she took the bait in a government sting. And last year, a jury convicted her of mail and wire fraud for exploiting the city’s set-aside program for woman-owned businesses.
“She knew that she was being watched, she knew it was wrong, and she did it anyway,” U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman said Thursday, echoing the words of federal prosecutors.
Feinerman sentenced Perino, 62, to a year and a day in prison. Her company, Perdel Contracting, was a certified woman-owned business. It was eligible to help fulfill a prime contractor’s obligations on publicly funded projects, participating as a subcontractor. But instead of honestly doing the work, the feds say, Perino just let her company be used in name only but still wanted to profit from the deal.
Before the judge sentenced her, Perino fought through tears to apologize for her crimes. She said the case has changed her life forever.
“I’m very sorry for what I’ve done,” Perino finally said. “I have no excuse for my conduct.”
The judge acknowledged that Perino has done many good deeds, including caring for her late disabled brother, and has suffered many “collateral consequences” as a result of the criminal case against her. Jacqueline Jacobson, Perino’s attorney, said Perino is in financial ruin and suffered serious medical problems after a jury convicted her last year.
But the feds said she let subcontractor Anthony Cappello use her firm as a phony “pass-through” on a $7 million joint sealing project at O’Hare Airport and an emergency asphalt contract. The feds said Perino hoped to make $320,000 off the scam that involved phony, back-dated documents.
“This is corruption,” Feinerman said. “There’s no other way to describe it.”
Cappello pleaded guilty to mail fraud in 2012 and was sentenced to two years of probation after cooperating with the government.