Prison for Ill. government workers in bribery-tax cut scheme

CBS News

CHICAGO - Two government workers in Cook County, Ill. who took bribes to lower property tax bills were sentenced to prison Wednesday, reports the Chicago Sun-Times.

Brothers Thomas Hawkins and John Racas got two years, and 18 months, respectively, for taking $1,500 in exchange for using their jobs with the county's Board of Review to lower taxes on three homes in 2008, according to the paper.

Chicago is the county seat.

In sentencing the two men, U.S. District Judge John Tharp called them "greedy" and "savvy" schemers who "worked the system of patronage and paybacks" for their own gain.

Neither Hawkins, 49, nor Racasi, 52, showed any emotion as the sentences were imposed. Both men had earlier apologized to the judge and to taxpayers, according to the Sun-Times.

Racasi, who once served with the Marines, reportedly said, "I knew better and I chose to do wrong... I also let down my colleagues in the Marines."

And Hawkins -- who is battling a heroin addiction, according to the paper -- told the judge, "I made a stupid mistake and I'm embarrassed by it."

The trial last year drew interest because both defendants repeatedly implicated Cook County Assessor Joe Berrios as being involved in the scheme.

Berrios, who was a Board of Review commissioner at the time and who was re-elected on Wednesday as leader of the Cook County Democratic Party, angrily denied the allegations.

Prosecutors and the defendants' lawyers agreed that the claims against Berrios were fabricated.