Former suburban Chicago road commissioner pleads guilty in kickback scheme
CHICAGO - A former suburban Chicago highway commissioner has pleaded guilty to taking more than $280,000 in kickbacks from the owner of an excavation company.
Robert Czernek, 71, pleaded guilty Thursday to one count of honest-services wire fraud during a remote hearing before a federal judge. Sentencing guidelines call for up to nine years in prison, but prosecutors have agreed to recommend a much lighter term if he continues to cooperate with them.
Czernek was formerly the elected head of the Bloomingdale Township highway commission.
He was charged in an August 2020 indictment along with Debra Fazio, the owner of Bloomingdale-based Bulldog Earth Movers Inc., and her employee, Mario Giannini.
Fazio and Giannini are now set for trial on May 31.
Czernek was accused of taking kickbacks from Fazio over a period of more than eight years in exchange for approving contracts for road work that in many cases was never performed.
He used his official position to approve more than $700,000 in payments for stone delivery, dump-leveling, and storm-sewer invoices Fazio’s company submitted to Bloomingdale Township.
The scheme began in 2012, the year Czernek was elected, and continued for most of his time in office, according to his plea agreement with prosecutors. The sole exception was 2013, an election year, when it was agreed to pause the kickbacks because Czernek "did not want to draw any scrutiny," the plea agreement states.