Elizabeth Perino is shown leaving federal court last year. | Sun-Times file photo

Willowbrook businesswoman guilty in sham contractor trial

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SHARE Willowbrook businesswoman guilty in sham contractor trial

Willowbrook businesswoman Elizabeth Perino was found guilty of fraud for her role in a scam to exploit a city set-aside program for woman-owned businesses.

Perino’s Perdel Contracting was certified as a “women’s business enterprise,” and according to paperwork she filed with the city, the firm was a subcontractor on a pair of major city projects, including the overhaul of the CTA’s Red Line and Brown Line and the reconstruction of Wacker Drive.

But prosecutors said Perino, 61, acted as a sham contractor, with Perdel acting as a pass-through so the main contractors, mega-firm McHugh Construction and subcontractor Anthony Capello, would have the required percentage of women-owned companies working on the $200 million job.

Jurors found Perino guilty of three counts of wire fraud and one of mail fraud.

Capello, who was facing charges in similar scam involving a company nominally owned by his wife that held multimillion-dollar contracts at O’Hare Airport, began cooperating with federal investigators and was the star witness against Perino.

Capello spent two days on the witness stand during the four-day trial. In recorded conversations, Perino and Capello plotted to put his employees on Perdel’s payroll to do work at O’Hare and arranged the sham sale of street-sweepers to do work at the airport, which Perdel would sell back to Capello’s company for $1 after the work was done.

Perdel would collect 18 percent of the contract’s labor costs and $20 an hour for use of the sweepers it “bought” from Capello — a bogus deal that would have paid Perino $365,000 though neither her employees nor her equipment would do the work.

McHugh paid a $12 million fine to settle the case and admitted no wrongdoing.

Perino’s lawyers pointed out that Capello would be charged for using a company owned by his wife to land millions in city contracts and asserted that he set Perino up for prosecutors to lighten his own sentence.

U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman has not set a date for Perino’s sentencing.

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