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High-living Cicero bishop did nothing wrong, attorney tells jury

Herman Jackson devoted his life to helping his church flock in Cicero, giving everything for the homeless, single moms, those overcoming drug addiction, his attorney told a federal jury Thursday.

“For all that sweat, all he gets is a trial and an indictment,” Matt McQuaid told jurors in the Dirksen Federal Building.

Jackson — known as “Bishop” to his flock — and his wife, Jannette Faria, both went on trial Thursday for fraud, allegedly bilking the state of Illinois out of hundreds of thousands in child-care subsidies through their day care at the Ark of Safety Apostolic Faith Temple in Cicero.

A Chicago Sun-Times story in February 2014 revealed that while Jackson ministered in Cicero, he also had another life, staying in a mansion in Atlanta that had seven bedrooms, five fireplaces, a three-car garage and $6,000 monthly rent.

But McQuaid told jurors Thursday that his client shouldn’t be on trial, that he stole no money and that he’d been “singled out and harassed every day” by Cicero town officials simply for being true to himself.

“Herman Jackson did not commit any crimes,” McQuaid said. “All he did was fight for the Ark of Safety.”

McQuaid denied Jackson had enjoyed a lavish lifestyle, pointing out that his Bentley and Mercedes were both “used” cars.

McQuaid promised jurors they would hear the full story when Jackson testifies later in the trial, which is expected to last at least into next week.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Matt Madden told jurors a very different story — that the fraud went on for years and involved the faking of paperwork that went to state agencies so that Jackson and Faria’s day care could get far larger subsidy payments than they were entitled to.

“The paperwork submitted was absolutely littered with false statements,” Madden said.

Madden said the fraud continued even after Cicero inspectors shut down the day care operation in February 2011.

Among other things, the alleged fraud involved billing the state for full-time kids, when those children were only attending day care part-time or not at all, Madden said. And to get around a requirement that the parents of children applying for subsidies be employed — or in job training — fake work verification letters were submitted to the state, Madden said.

Madden said the fraud was all done to “line their pockets,” referring to Jackson and Faria.

Madden didn’t make specific mention of the Georgia mansion, but said Herman Jackson, “spent a lot of money in Georgia.”

In his opening statement, Faria’s attorney, Leighton O’Connell-Miller, said his client was not involved in the day-to-day operations of the day care, spent most of her time in Atlanta and didn’t knowingly falsify any documents.

“Ms. Faria probably could have been more vigilant . . . but at the end of the day, that’s not a crime,” O’Connell-Miller said.