CHICAGO | A onetime chief of staff to the former head of the Illinois Department of Public Health is accused of accepting $433,000 in kickbacks for steering about $13 million grant and contract money to purported philanthropic groups, according to an indictment released by prosecutors Thursday.
Quinshaunta R. Golden, 44, becomes the 13th person accused in an ongoing federal investigation into grant and contract fraud in Illinois. Among the money she allegedly pocketed were parts of grants set aside for breast and prostate cancer programs, and for HIV/AIDS awareness and emergency preparedness.
The indictment released by the U.S. Attorney's Office in Springfield accuses Golden of bribery, theft and mail fraud, as well as obstruction of justice for allegedly attempting to talk one potential witness into lying to investigators. A conviction on the obstruction count alone carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence.
The accusations stem in part from Golden's time as chief of staff to then-agency head Eric E. Whitaker, a friend of President Barack Obama's who has not been accused of wrongdoing. She was chief of staff from 2003 to 2008, when she took a position at the University of Chicago Medical Center, the indictment says.
A message seeking left at a residential number for Golden seeking comment on the indictment wasn't returned, and court filings did not immediately include a name of a defense attorney. Golden is scheduled to make an initial appearance in U.S. District Court in Springfield on Aug. 23.
The indictment says Golden took steps to ensure $11 million in grant went to three not-for-profit groups, Broadcast Ministers Alliance, Access Wellness and Racial Equity, and the Medical Health Association — all of which were controlled by Leon Dingle, Jr.
Part of the alleged scheme involved Dingle hiring someone as a consultant. The consultant was paid more than $1 million in grant money via Dingle and then half was kicked back to Golden, the indictment says. There was a similar setup with $2 million in contract money Golden arranged for a security firm, the document says.
Dingle, his wife and two others were indicted last year for allegedly using at least $3.7 million in state health grants to pay for vacation homes, yacht club memberships, luxury cars and other personal expenses. They pleaded not guilty and are scheduled to go to trial in December.
Among others snared in the federal probe is ex-state Rep. Constance Howard, a Chicago Democrat who last month pleaded guilty to culling nearly $30,000 from a scholarship fund for personal and political use. She helped raise the funds through the annual "Tee Off For Technology Celebrity Golf Outing," prosecutors said.