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Feds say suburban road commissioner took more than $280K in kickbacks in yearslong fraud scheme

Robert Czernek, 69, has been charged along with others with honest services wire fraud.

Dirksen Federal Courthouse
Dirksen Federal Courthouse
Sun-Times file

The elected head of the Bloomingdale Township Road District knew the excavation company Bulldog Earth Movers didn’t do much of the work for which it had billed the township, the feds say.

But they said Robert Czernek did more than look the other way. He allegedly helped, hiding handwritten notes on Bloomingdale Township Highway Department property for a company worker, explaining what it should say in its invoices — and what he should be paid in return.

Now Czernek, 69, has become the Chicago-area’s latest elected official to face federal criminal charges. The feds hit him with a 30-page indictment Thursday alleging he took more than $280,000 in kickbacks from Bulldog Earth Movers owner Debra Fazio, 63, and her employee 58-year-old Mario Giannini.

In return, they said Czernek helped steer more than $700,000 from Bloomingdale Township to the excavating company during the eight-year scheme, knowing it had not performed much of the stone-delivery, dump-leveling and storm-sewer work for the township it claimed.

Czernek, Fazio and Giannini have all been charged with 14 counts of honest services wire fraud. Fazio also faces six counts of money laundering. None of them could be reached for comment after the indictment was filed Thursday, and no arraignments had been scheduled.

Federal authorities in January sought various records from the Bloomingdale Township Highway Department, including its surveillance systems, Czernek’s desk calendar and “any handwritten notes describing construction, excavation and/or road work purportedly performed.”

The indictment alleges Fazio and Giannini paid the kickbacks by writing checks to a defunct former business of Czernek’s known as Tri-State Express. It claims Czernek’s kickbacks usually amounted to $5 or $6 for each ton of stone on a delivery invoice, 50% of a total invoice for storm-sewer work, and varying amounts for dump-leveling invoices.

They said Czernek hid notes for Giannini “at secluded locations at the Bloomingdale Township Highway Department building or construction yard” that told Giannini what Bulldog Earth Movers should say in its invoices.

“Some of the notes included details about the amount of money which Czernek wanted to be paid in kickbacks,” the indictment alleges.

Czernek is the fourth elected official to face federal criminal charges in as many weeks. So far this month the feds have also charged Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta for a bribery scheme, state Sen. Terry Link for filing a false income tax return, and former Cook County Commissioner Jeffrey Tobolski for an extortion conspiracy.

Other elected officials also facing federal charges include Chicago Ald. Edward M. Burke, state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, former state Rep. Luis Arroyo and former state Sen. Martin Sandoval.