Elizabeth Perino was found guilty of fraud for her role in a scam to exploit a Chicago set-aside program for woman-owned businesses. Perino, 62, of Willowbrook, was convicted on three counts of wire fraud and one count of mail fraud "for scheming to help a general contractor falsely satisfy its female hiring requirement", according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Illinois.
Perdel Contracting, one of two business owned by Perino, that were certified as a women’s business enterprise. Her other business is Accurate Steel Installers Inc. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Perino's companies got more than $16 million in city business between 2005 and 2012.
Perdel Contracting acted as pass-through for a general contractor and another subcontractor so those companies could lie about having the required percentage of women-owned businesses working on their multimillion dollar job doing runway repair at O'Hare Airport and on a pair of major city projects, including the overhaul of the CTA’s Red and Brown lines and the reconstruction of Wacker Drive.
Perino falsified paperwork to conceal the fact that her business, Perdel Contracting, would perform no actual work on the projects. She agreed to place the general contractor’s employees on Perdel’s payroll to perform the work that would be credited to Perdel.
Perino agreed to a kickback of 18 percent of the contract's labor costs and $20 per hour for the use of street sweepers the company said it bought.
Perino also entered into a sham contract to “purchase” street sweepers from the general contractor and title them in Perdel’s name while the general contractor’s workers performed the street sweeping as purported employees of Perdel. The agreement would have paid Perino $365,000 though neither her employees nor her equipment would do the work.
Perino's firm was also implicated in a major WDBE fraud scheme that led to a $12 million settlement last year with Chicago's James McHugh Construction Co. Inc. McHugh admitted no wrongdoing and escaped debarment under the settlement, which addressed fraud on seven major projects dating to 2004.
Perdel Contracting agreed to a kickback of 18 percent of the contract's labor costs and $20 per hour for the use of street sweepers the company said it bought (another bogus deal) that would have paid Perino $365,000 though neither her employees nor her equipment would do the work.
Perino was originally charged by complaint in July 2011, following a joint investigation of the Chicago Office of Inspector General and the Federal Bureau of Investigation with assistance from the City’s Department of Procurement Services. The conviction is punishable by a maximum sentence of 80 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Gary Feinerman will schedule a sentencing hearing at a later date.