Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley announced in his state of the city address that he will end the Hired Truck Program (HTP), which contracts private trucking companies to haul material and debris from municipal construction sites. An ongoing investigation by the U.S. Attorney’s office has produced charges of bribery against 17 people so far in a scandal afflicting the program.
In his address, Daley accepted responsibility for the wayward program.
“While it is impossible to guarantee the integrity of every single employee or contractor, when abuses show up repeatedly within a program or agency, it’s a failure of the system and my administration,” Daley said.
Daley’s announcement came as a surprise, as just over a week ago he defended the merits of reforming the program. But despite efforts to reform the program, “it is not working as it should,” Daley said.
His move pulls the plug on a trucking program riddled with what could be millions of dollars lost to waste, corruption and fraud.
A probe initiated by the U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) describes allegedly illegal transactions between HTP officials and representatives of 11 trucking companies, which combined received nearly $12 million in HTP work between 2000 and 2003.
In early February DOJ announced the arrest of Chicago Police Cmdr. Michael J. Acosta, who was until two weeks ago the city’s highest-ranking officer stationed at O’Hare and Midway airports, on federal charges for allegedly lying to FBI agents during an HTP probe.
FBI agents learned of a relationship between Acosta and John “Quarters” Boyle, a former Chicago DOT employee and a federal defendant in the HTP investigation. Boyle earned the nickname “Quarters” after an his indictment in 1992 for stealing millions in coins collected by the Illinois Toll Highway Authority, the Chicago Tribune said.
The FBI collected evidence that Boyle received favors from Acosta in receiving criminal history information from law databases.
Angelo Torres, who directed HTP from 2000 to 2003, was also indicted for allegedly conspiring with Boyle and now-deceased Nick Lococo and other HTP supervisors to solicit cash, campaign contribution and gifts, totaling at least $200,000, from trucking companies in exchange for preferential treatment in the $40 million annual city program.
Torres and Boyle were charged with one count each of extortion conspiracy. Additionally, Torres was charged with one count of mail fraud, one count of attempted extortion, three counts of bribery and three counts of filing false tax returns. Boyle was also charged with six counts of bribery, two counts of obstruction of justice and three counts of filing false tax returns.
One section of the indictment outlines an instance when Boyle told a company representative he “had to take care of his guys”— after which Boyle received $2,000 from the rep days later. In a separate scenario described by the indictment, Boyle collected an $800 payment for Torres, which was picked up from a coffee can in the same representative’s garage.