Ex-Cook County assessor worker admits he helped cut taxes by $1M in exchange for home improvements

Lavdim Memisovski, who agreed to cooperate with prosecutors, pleaded guilty to conduct between 2016 and July 2018 under then-Assessor Joe Berrios. Memisovski admitted his scheme involved other assessor’s employees.

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A sign for the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, 219 S. Dearborn St.

Lavdim Memisovski admitted conspiring with other employees of the Cook County Assessor’s Office to lower taxes on some properties by at least $1 million in exchange for home improvements and sports tickets.

Sun-Times file

A former longtime Cook County assessor’s office employee agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors Thursday as he admitted helping lower taxes on certain Cook County properties by at least $1 million in exchange for benefits like home improvements.

Lavdim Memisovski, 43, pleaded guilty to a conspiracy count for conduct that occurred between 2016 and July 2018, under then-Assessor Joe Berrios, who previously has been a subject of interest by federal authorities.

Berrios could not be reached for comment.

A separate hearing in federal court Thursday dealt with the pending case against his son-in-law, businessman James T. Weiss.

In his plea agreement, Memisovski admitted his scheme involved other employees of the Cook County assessor’s office.

Memisovski worked in the office as a commercial group leader, assessing values for commercial properties and reviewing their property tax appeals.

Though federal sentencing guidelines call for a prison sentence of five years for Memisovski, prosecutors have agreed to recommend probation if they are satisfied with his cooperation. His sentencing hearing has not been scheduled.

Prosecutors accused Memisovski last month of conspiring with others to accept home improvement materials and services, jewelry, meals, sporting event tickets and other items as a reward for reducing the assessed values of certain Cook County properties.

Property assessments are a key factor in calculating property tax bills.

Memisovski was charged in a four-page document known as an information, signaling his likely intent to plead guilty. The lightly detailed document noted that, on June 2, 2017, Memisovski called someone to confirm the person would have sprinklers installed at Memisovski’s home. The person he called was not named in the document.

But Memisovski’s 22-page plea agreement offers further details. It said he agreed to accept benefits from two unidentified individuals and their companies, knowing they wanted him to lower assessed values on properties, including certain “family properties.”

It said Memisovski made sure those properties’ appeals were routed to him, extended the deadlines for the filing of appeals and reduced the assessed values on those properties, leading to a tax break of at least $1 million.

In exchange, those unnamed individuals provided home improvements at Memisovski’s residence that included a concrete pad, decking materials, dumpster usage, fascia and soffit, a fence, a gas line, heads for a sprinkler system, windows and labor.

The Chicago Sun-Times last year revealed a similar situation at the Cook County Board of Review. The FBI had been investigating a Board of Review employee who allegedly used his position to lower property assessments in exchange for thousands of dollars in cash bribes, according to a federal court affidavit.

It does not appear any criminal charges have resulted from that investigation. The Board of Review hired the high-profile law firm Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila LLP to look into the allegations, but the results of that probe have not been revealed.

In a separate hearing Thursday, U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger denied a motion to suppress statements made by Weiss during a lengthy interview with FBI agents who pulled over his car in Maywood in 2019 with a warrant to search his cellphone.

Weiss still faces charges in the bribery case that ended the career of former state Rep. Luis Arroyo. Seeger sentenced Arroyo to nearly five years in prison earlier this year.

According to a 50-page transcript of the interview referenced by the judge, the agents repeatedly told Weiss the interview was voluntary, and Weiss told them several times that he wanted to cooperate because he “had nothing to hide” and at one point said he “could have lawyered up.”

“I have like seven lawyers on retainer,” Weiss said, according to the transcript.

Weiss’ attorneys wound up asking the judge for time to meet with their client before setting a trial date.

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