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THE WATCHDOGS: Illinois gave TV show tax break to dig up mob hit man’s grave

Digging up the body of reputed mob hit man Frank “The German” Schweihs.

Two pairs of shoes for “Chicago Fire” character Kelly Severide, played by actor Taylor Kinney, Lady Gaga’s fiancé.

And blueberries for TV’s “Judge Mathis.”

What these things have in common is that they helped filmmakers get a total of $204 million in tax breaks from Illinois taxpayers, according to records filed with the Illinois Film Office.

READ PART 1: Hollywood’s gift from Illinois taxpayers — $200 million in film tax credits

The Chicago Sun-Times obtained thousands of pages of audits and other documents submitted by seven of the more than 900 movies, TV shows and commercials that have gotten tax breaks under the Illinois Film Production Services Tax Credit Program.

Under the 2008 state law signed by Gov. Rod Blagojevich that created the program, filmmakers get a 30 percent tax credit for goods and services they buy in Illinois — everything from six-figure studio rental fees to a sandwich at Portillo’s.

They get the same tax break on wages paid to actors, extras and crew members who have an Illinois driver’s license or state ID before filming starts. They can get another 15 percent tax break for wages paid to workers who live in neighborhoods where unemployment is above 13.8 percent. Filmmakers have hired thousands of people to work these temporary, often part-time, jobs, including security jobs for off-duty Chicago cops.

Here’s an inside look at how some of the TV shows and movies taking part in the state program spent their money and the tax credits they got:

"Mob Wives Chicago" 2012 cast photo showing (from left) Nora Schweihs, Renee Fecarotta Russo, Pia Rizza, Christina Scoleri and Leah DeSimone.

“Mob Wives Chicago” 2012 cast photo showing (from left) Nora Schweihs, Renee Fecarotta Russo, Pia Rizza, Christina Scoleri and Leah DeSimone.

‘Mob Wives Chicago’

Reality TV show following five women with alleged connections to organized crime, including Nora Schweihs, who had her father exhumed in the final episode. The FBI believes Schweihs, an associate of mob boss Joey “The Clown” Lombardo, was a prolific killer of the mob’s enemies — though he never got caught.

Illinois spending: $2 million over 71 shooting days in 2012.

Tax credits: $636,327 on Sept. 26, 2013, to Left Right Inc. of New York. Credits later were sold to Viacom.

Spending highlights:

• $850 to Nora Schweihs: “forensics-dental exam/identity Frank Schweihs.”

• $1,675 to Nora Schweihs: “pathology testing.”

• $3,979.91 to Nora Schweihs: “disinterment and cremation-Frank Schweihs.”

• $66,000 each to Schweihs and the other four women: Leah Desimone, Renee Fecarotta Russo, Pia Rizza and Christina Scoleri.

"Chicago Fire" cast NBC-TV photo

“Chicago Fire” cast NBC-TV photo

‘Chicago Fire Dept.’

Pilot episode of TV drama that became the hit series “Chicago Fire.”

Illinois spending: $4.9 million over 15 shooting days in 2012.

Tax credits: $1.6 million on Feb. 27, 2013, to Open 4 Business LLC of California. Credits haven’t been sold.

Spending highlights:

• $272 to Nordstrom: “2 pair shoes-Severide’s.”

• $652 to Bloomingdales: “Navy Burberry Jacket-Herrm.”

• $6,200 to the Chicago Fire Department: “fire equipment.”

• $6,250 to Chicago deputy district fire chief Steven G. Chikerotis (now retired): “consulting.”

• $13,614 to the Chicago Park District: “site fee.”

• $23,250 to actor Joe Minoso, who plays Joe Cruz: wages and benefits.

• $23,505 to stunt man Rick Lefevour: wages and benefits.

• $57,810 to William T. Hogan III, son of the former Teamsters Local 714 boss: “driver captain/trans coord.”

• $215,161 to Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where the show is filmed.

Cast of ABC-TV's now-cancelled "Betrayal."

Cast of ABC-TV’s now-canceled “Betrayal.”

‘Betrayal’

Thirteen-episode TV drama about adultery.

Illinois spending: $21.5 million over 97 shooting days in 2013.

Tax credits: $6.7 million on Sept. 8, 2014, to ABC Studios in California. Credits haven’t been sold.

Spending highlights:

• 77 cents to Aldi: “butter.”

• $1.50 to LAZ Parking: “production.”

• $1.63 to CVS: “lip balm.”

• $60,000 to Alpana Singh’s The Boarding House restaurant: “site fee.”

• $43,290 to child actor Maxwell Jenkins, who played Oliver: wages and benefits.

• $163,930 to four members of the Crededio family, which owns Chicago Studio City, where the show was filmed, and Chicago Studio Rentals. The four worked as crew members.

• $824,676 to Chicago Studio City Real Estate.

• $2.8 million to Chicago Studio Rentals Inc.: equipment.

Boss__120926234212

‘Boss: season 2′

TV drama about a fictional Chicago mayor.

Illinois spending: $14.5 million over 79 shooting days in 2012.

Tax credits: $4.5 million on Aug. 1, 2013. Later sold $4.2 million in credits to Verizon and $300,000 to Kohl’s.

Spending highlights:

• $5,407 to former ABC7 and CBS2 newscaster Diann Burns, who played a TV anchor: wages and benefits.

• $42,273 to actor Francis Guinan, who played Gov. McCall Cullen: wages and benefits.

• $44,790 to actor James Meredith, who played Ald. Ross: wages and benefits.

• $48,273 to actor Daniel J. Travanti, who played developer Gerald “Babe” McGantry, wages and benefits.

• $56,062 to actress Amy Morton, who played Sen. Catherine Walsh: wages and benefits.

• $244,550 to Premier Luxury Suites Inc: cast apartment rentals.

• $661,527 to Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where the show was filmed.

Transofrmers

‘Transformers 4′

Science-fiction blockbuster movie.

Illinois spending: $20.3 million in 2013.

Tax credits: $6.1 million on Sept. 30, 2014, to Paramount Pictures of California. Credits have not been sold.

Spending highlights:

• $100 to the state of Illinois: “pyro license fee.”

• $2,498 to Chicago Police Officer John R. Cleggett: “police.”

• $4,500 to Mr. Beef on Orleans: “parking spaces.”

• $89,066 to James A. Hogan, another family member of the former Teamsters Local 714 boss: “trans. coordinator.”

• $118,432 for 1,636 “extras.”

• $70,876 to the Chicago Transit Authority: transit supervisors.

• $105,645 to United Maintenance Co. Inc.: “cleaning services” and dumpsters.

• $125,540 to the Chicago Police Department: squad cars and marine unit.

• $415,381 to Trump International Hotel: hotel rooms.

• $534,872 to Cinespace Chicago Film Studios, where the movie was filmed.

Greg Mathis of TV's "Judge Mathis."

Greg Mathis of TV’s “Judge Mathis.”

‘Judge Mathis’

Syndicated small-claims court show starring Judge Greg Mathis.

Illinois spending: $6.9 million over 44 shooting days for the 2012 season.

Tax credits: $2.1 million on May 15, 2014, to AND Syndicated Productions of California. Credits later were sold to U.S. Bank.

Spending highlights:

• $7.14 at Dominick’s: “blueberries for judge.”

• $706.74 at Carson Pirie Scott: “wardrobe for judge.”

• $929.79 to LensCrafters: “glasses for judge.”

• $5,000 to the Gateway Foundation: “medical rehab for litigant.”

See who has gotten Illinois film tax credits below:

HOW TAX CREDITS WORK

State law provides for tax credits as an incentive to attract business such as filmmaking or construction of low-income housing. They work like this:

• Tax credits are issued based on a certain minimum level of spending — in the case of film and TV production in Illinois, $100,000.

• On completing a qualified project, production companies submit records to the state showing what they spent in Illinois.

• The state then issues tax credits that allow the company to deduct a certain percentage of what they spent from the income taxes owed to the state.

• These credits also can be sold to other businesses or individuals who can then subtract the amount of the credit from their income taxes.

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The tax credit certificate that Illinois state officials gave for the “Chicago Fire” pilot episode:

'Chicago Fire' tax credits