CHICAGO - A federal judge sentenced a former longtime Cook County Board of Review worker to three months behind bars for helping lower property taxes in exchange for $43,000 in cash bribes.
Danilo "Danny B" Barjaktarevic admitted last year that he offered to have property assessments lowered for bribes at a rate of $2,000 for every commercial property and $1,000 for every residential property.
Assessments are a key factor in calculating property tax bills.
But before he was sentenced Tuesday, Barjaktarevic told U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman that the bribery scheme "doesn’t portray me as a person." Rather, he told the judge, "I lost my way," and added, "I hurt everybody, but I hurt my family the most.
"I am ashamed of myself," Barjaktarevic said.
Ahead of the hearing, defense attorney Matthew McQuaid noted in a court memo that Barjaktarevic already lost his job with the Board of Review, and he will lose his pension.
The Chicago Sun-Times first revealed the federal probe that led to Barjaktarevic’s prosecution. It involved an unnamed individual who was secretly cooperating with the feds and was separately under criminal investigation, according to an FBI affidavit the Sun-Times obtained in July 2021.
Federal authorities filed the affidavit on June 30, 2021, seeking a judge’s permission to search Barjaktarevic and his phone. Though Barjaktarevic allegedly claimed during the investigation he was a "middle guy," his plea agreement indicates he lied when he said others at the Board of Review were involved.
The Board of Review hired the high-profile law firm Riley Safer Holmes & Cancila to look into the Sun-Times’ report about Barjaktarevic. Though the firm was initially hired through a contract worth up to $110,000, records show the cap was later raised to $150,000.
The firm ultimately said its work had been stymied when Barjaktarevic refused to be interviewed and said he forgot the passcode to his county-issued cellphone.
During the feds’ investigation, the person cooperating with the agency broached the idea of having property assessments lowered for an associate on July 13, 2020, according to the FBI affidavit. His conversations with Barjaktarevic eventually resulted in him sending property index numbers by email for 18 commercial properties and seven residential properties on Jan. 5, 2021.
Barjaktarevic told the cooperator in a phone call later that day that "everything’s doable," records show. He said, "On these commercial pieces … they want $2K apiece … ’cause then it gets split up between everybody," according to the affidavit.
For residential properties, he allegedly said, "It’s, uh, a grand apiece."
"Half now and half when it’s completed," Barjaktarevic said, later agreeing on $21,000 for the first half, authorities said.
The cooperator delivered the money to Barjaktarevic in a Skokie parking lot later that month, according to the affidavit.
The cooperator said, "Sorry it’s not a little bit more organized, brother, but count it."
Barjaktarevic replied, "I ain’t gonna count it … I’ll count it when I get home," records show.
A photo of Barjaktarevic holding the money also appeared in the affidavit.
Barjaktarevic suggested his cut would be $250 per property, and his colleagues would get the rest, saying, "I’m gonna get outta this one, 250’s f—ing my cut. Which, f— it. I don’t give a f—. I’m just the middle guy pushing."
Barjaktarevic sent the cooperator the new assessments in May of that year. Then, when the two talked the following month, the cooperator said he had told his associate, "You saved $99,000, around $99,059, somewhere in that range," according to the affidavit.
But the associate still owed another $22,000, the document said. After the cooperator suggested delaying the payment, Barjaktarevic allegedly said he spoke to his colleagues and "got my f—ing head chewed off."
"They said, ‘We made a deal. We proved to him that we’re [re]liable,’" Barjaktarevic allegedly said on June 9, 2021. "He goes, ‘They already accounted for that money for their vacations and s—.’"
On June 10, 2021, the cooperator sent Barjaktarevic a phone message that read, "All good for the 22. I’ll have it before the holiday."
Then, on June 22, 2021, he sent a message asking if they could meet July 1, 2021, according to the feds.
"That’s fine see you on the 1st," Barjaktarevic allegedly replied.
When they met, Barjaktarevic accepted that second payment of $22,000, according to his plea agreement.