A former low-level City Hall clerk involved in a brazen scam that net her nearly three-quarters of a million dollars of taxpayer money will spend 30 months in federal prison, a judge ruled Thursday.
Antionette Chenier, 51, of Midlothian embezzled $25 to $200 at a time, taking hundreds of checks that Chicagoans wrote for permits to park moving vans and dumpsters on city streets since 2008. Then she deposited them into her own accounts, according to a federal complaint.
The scam went undetected for six years, snagging Chenier $741,299 — more than 12 times her salary of $60,000 a year.
On Thursday, U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan sentenced Chenier to 30 months in federal prison. She must also pay restitution to the City of Chicago for $741,299. And she must pay $154,826 in restitution to the IRS, according to U.S. Attorney’s office spokesman Joe Fitzpatrick.
Chenier in April pleaded guilty to stealing payments meant for Chicago’s Office of Emergency Management and Communication between August 2008 and January 2014, when she worked for the city’s Department of Transportation. She also pleaded guilty to tax evasion, admitting she filed filed a false tax return claiming just $52,043 in adjusted gross income in 2012. In reality, she’d taken $166,885 from Chicago that year alone, according to her plea agreement.
She could have faced as many as 15 years in prison.
“You stole money from Chicago and put it in your account?” Der-Yeghiayan asked Chenier at her plea hearing in April.
“Yes,” she replied.
Chenier worked for the city from May 1990 until January 2014. As a clerk in the Department of Transportation from 2008 until 2014, Chenier helped process payments from companies for van and dumpster permits — typically written payable to the Office of Emergency Management and Communication.
So she opened a business account at Charter One Bank in March 2009 in the name of “OEMC Chenier.” She deposited $86,010 that year alone.
Charter One bank staff noticed the unusual activity on one of Chenier ‘s accounts in January 2014 and froze it, court records show.