Man convicted in Bloomingdale Township kickback scheme gets 5 years

Mario Giannini, who worked for Bulldog Earth Movers, was found guilty after a trial featuring testimony of the township’s disgraced former commissioner, Robert Czernek.

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The doors at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse.

Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St.

Sun-Times file

A federal judge Tuesday gave a five-year prison sentence to a man convicted for his role in a kickback scheme involving former Bloomingdale Township Highway Commissioner Robert Czernek, according to the U.S. attorney’s office. 

A jury in June convicted Mario Giannini, who worked for Bulldog Earth Movers, at the end of a weeklong trial that featured Czernek’s testimony.

Czernek pleaded guilty in March and agreed with prosecutors that he took more than $281,000 in kickbacks from Giannini and Bulldog’s owner, Debra Fazio. In all, Czernek admitted he had $736,237 in fraudulent invoices approved for Bulldog, costing Bloomingdale Township $547,195.

Czernek’s sentencing hearing is set for Jan. 24.

Though Fazio also faced criminal charges and went to trial with Giannini, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly cleared her of all charges in an extremely rare move after prosecutors rested their case. Czernek had testified that he never spoke with Fazio about the scheme.

Rather, he said Giannini would speak to him over the years, saying, “We could make some money.”

Czernek also told jurors that, when he once visited Giannini’s shop in Elgin, Giannini decided to show off his collection of toy trucks upstairs. Czernek said Giannini “had to have hundreds of trucks up there.” He told Giannini, “This looks expensive.”

Giannini allegedly replied, “As long as we keep doing what we’re doing, it will be OK.”

Susan Pavlow, who represented Giannini at trial, asked jurors not to trust Czernek. She sought a light sentence for Giannini in a recent court memo and wrote that, “Mario Giannini is a man whose life is defined by hard work, beginning each day before dawn.”

Prosecutors asked for a sentence of eight years, noting that court personnel could not determine any motive for the fraud scheme. Prosecutors said that left only one plausible factor: “greed.”

“Simply put, when presented with an opportunity to make easy money at taxpayer expense, [Giannini] did not think twice,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Saurish Appleby-Bhattacharjee wrote.

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