Man showed off ‘expensive’ toy trucks amid $700K scam of Bloomingdale Twp., ex-road commish claims

Robert Czernek told that story from the witness stand at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, where he spent hours Wednesday testifying about a scheme in which he steered more than $700,000 to Bulldog Earth Movers while taking more than $281,000 in kickbacks.

SHARE Man showed off ‘expensive’ toy trucks amid $700K scam of Bloomingdale Twp., ex-road commish claims
The Dirksen Federal Courthouse, where Mustafaa Saleh pleaded guilty to wire fraud in the scheme involving the Cook County Land Bank Authority, the county agency where he formerly worked.

Former Bloomingdale Township Highway Commissioner Robert Czernek testified Wedenesday about scamming the department and receiving kickbacks.

Sun-Times file

Near the end of a yearslong scheme to cheat hundreds of thousands of dollars out of Bloomingdale Township, its then-road commissioner visited the Elgin shop of his alleged fellow schemer, who decided to show off his collection of toy trucks upstairs.

Former Bloomingdale Township Highway Commissioner Robert Czernek said Wednesday that the man, Mario 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.”

Czernek told that story from the witness stand at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, where he spent hours Wednesday testifying about the scheme. Czernek has admitted he steered more than $700,000 to Bulldog Earth Movers, an excavation company where Giannini worked, while taking more than $281,000 in kickbacks from Giannini and the company’s owner, Debra Fazio.

Giannini and Fazio are now on trial. Their attorneys have described Bulldog as a two-person operation run by the long-time couple and warned jurors that Czernek is a liar who shouldn’t be trusted. Later Wednesday, during cross-examination, Giannini’s lawyer Susan Pavlow insisted Czernek had never previously mentioned the story about Giannini’s toy truck collection.

“The first time we ever heard anything like that was today, on the witness stand, right?” Pavlow said.

Czernek said, “I made that statement … I made that statement to my attorney.”

Czernek pleaded guilty in March to honest services wire fraud. His plea agreement alleged that he hatched a scheme with Giannini in 2012 that began as a plan to pad Bulldog’s invoices but evolved until the men agreed to have Bulldog bill the township for work it never performed. The scam lasted until 2020.

When he pleaded guilty, Czernek agreed to cooperate with prosecutors in hopes of a lighter sentence.

“There are no guarantees,” Czernek told the jury Wednesday when he was asked about his hopes of avoiding prison altogether.

Czernek, who was first charged along with Fazio and Giannini in August 2020, said he “retired” in December 2020. He told jurors how the scheme began after Giannini told him during a 2012 meeting at a Moretti’s restaurant in Bartlett that “he would take care of me.” 

Czernek then explained how over the years, including shortly after that 2012 meeting, Giannini would come to Czernek’s office and tell him “we could make some money” before the men would then go speak outside. 

The road commissioner has admitted he left handwritten notes for Giannini on the grounds of the Bloomingdale Township Highway Department, providing information Bulldog needed to include on bogus invoices. On Wednesday, a prosecutor compared the invoices to Czernek’s notes to show how the numbers would match. 

Many of the notes were written on stationery from a gas-and-oil vendor named Avalon.

Czernek said he would leave notes in various places, including in the drawer of a table in the Bloomingdale Township Highway Department’s office foyer and in Giannini’s BBQ grill.

The former politician also admitted lying on economic interest statements and tax returns about his receipt of the kickbacks. 

“I did not want to get caught,” Czernek said.

The Latest
Should it happen before the All-Star break, reinforcements will be needed to at least carry the workload that Cease has handled over the last three seasons.
Brandon Alcaraz, 22, was struck in the head Saturday night in the 2500 block of South Trumbull Avenue. He was taken to Mount Sinai Hospital, where he was pronounced dead. A 17-year-old boy was wounded.
Officers were in the 11000 block of South Vernon Avenue about 11:48 a.m. Sunday when a dog got away from its owner and came toward the officers in an “aggressive manner,” police said. One officer fired at the dog. Another officer was hurt by debris.
Notes: Miles Mastrobuoni made an impressive play in a rare appearance in the outfield, and Counsell shed light on Shota Imanaga’s schedule.