Ex-Cook County official Patrick Doherty pleads guilty to corruption schemes

His case is tied to those of others already charged as a result of aggressive federal corruption investigations. Most of the others have pleaded guilty.

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Patrick Doherty, chief of staff for Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, exits the Dirksen Federal Building in February 2020.

Patrick Doherty leaves the Dirksen Federal Building in February 2020.

Tyler Pasciak LaRiviere/Sun-Times file

A once high-ranking Cook County official sat quietly in a federal courtroom as a prosecutor read through a laundry list of allegations against him Wednesday.

The prosecutor accused Patrick Doherty, the onetime chief of staff to Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, of six different corruption schemes. They involved Tobolski, the late state Sen. Martin Sandoval, Cook County, the village of Oak Lawn, the village of McCook, a cigar lounge in Countryside, red-light cameras and bribes totaling $148,000.

When the prosecutor finished, U.S. District Judge Ronald Guzman asked Doherty if it was true that he did “all of those things.”

Doherty leaned forward and said, “Yes, your honor.” Then, Doherty pleaded guilty to federal bribery and tax charges. Sentencing guidelines call for him to spend around five or six years behind bars. Guzman set his sentencing hearing for Nov. 10.

The feds first leveled an indictment against Doherty, 66, in February 2020. It hit shortly after Sandoval pleaded guilty to his own corruption charges and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors. Sandoval then died in December 2020.

But several others connected to Doherty’s schemes have been charged in the years since, and most have pleaded guilty. They include Tobolski, former Worth Township Supervisor John O’Sullivan and suburban businessman Vahooman “Shadow” Mirkhaef. Another key player who faced charges was Omar Maani, a onetime partner in the politically connected red-light camera company SafeSpeed LLC.

Maani struck a so-called deferred-prosecution agreement with the feds rather than plead guilty. SafeSpeed has not been charged with wrongdoing, and it has portrayed Maani as a rogue actor. Doherty also worked as a sales agent for SafeSpeed.

At the heart of Doherty’s plea agreement is the scam involving Sandoval, in which Doherty agreed in July 2019 to make monthly $2,000 payments to Sandoval for a year to get Sandoval to oppose legislation that would be adverse to the red-light camera industry. Doherty also agreed in August 2019 to pay for repairs to one of Sandoval’s cars.

The feds raided Sandoval’s home and offices in September 2019.

But Doherty’s plea agreement details several other scams. For example, it said Doherty asked Mirkhaef in December 2018 to pay Sandoval $25,000 in exchange for Sandoval’s support of Mirkhaef’s efforts to purchase and use property in McCook.

It also said Doherty agreed with O’Sullivan and Maani to give a job to the son of an Oak Lawn trustee in an effort to get the trustee to award SafeSpeed more red-light cameras there. It said that, after Doherty gave the son a $500 check, the son stopped returning Doherty’s calls.

In another scheme, Doherty met with Maani and two other unidentified people — one being a public official — at a Countryside cigar lounge in May 2018. There, Doherty helped offer the public official 30 to 50 people who would work for free for that person and candidates they supported, if the public official would support SafeSpeed’s efforts to win a contract.

Separately, as Tobolski’s chief of staff, Doherty leveraged his position to secure meals, travel and sporting-event tickets from an unidentified individual. In return, Doherty sought to help that person by trying to advance a Cook County resolution and obtaining approval for a pilot program in which Cook County used products that person sold.

In McCook, where Tobolski was also mayor, Doherty arranged for Maani to pay Tobolski in return for Tobolski’s support for another company Maani had an interest in. Doherty also had another unidentified individual install air-conditioning units worth $17,795 and give sporting-event tickets to Tobolski in return for Tobolski’s support for that person’s business.

Finally, Doherty admitted in his plea agreement he filed false tax returns from 2012 through 2018, costing the IRS $73,162 and the Illinois Department of Revenue $7,780. Doherty has agreed to pay those amounts in restitution.

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