CHICAGO—A Chicago man employed by the Cook County Department of Revenue to conduct inspections and ensure merchants selling tobacco products have paid required taxes was arrested by special agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) for allegedly taking bribes to alert nonpaying merchants of upcoming inspections. The arrest was announced today by Robert D. Grant, Special Agent in Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI, and Gary S. Shapiro, Acting United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.
Robert Mitchell, 39, whose last known address was 2411 West Flournoy, Chicago, was arrested Tuesday evening on Chicago’s near west side following the filing of a criminal complaint in U.S. District Court on August 6, 2012, and unsealed after the arrest. The investigation that led to yesterday’s arrest began in late 2011 when a Cooperating Witness (CW) told the FBI of an alleged offer from Mitchell. The CW is the manager of a convenience store that sells cigarettes and other tobacco products and knows the owners of several other convenience stores in the Chicago area that also sell tobacco products. The complaint alleges that Mitchell identified himself to the CW as a Cook County tobacco inspector willing to provide advance notice of upcoming tobacco inspections in exchange for money.
According to the complaint, Mitchell and the CW then settled into a routine of monthly $600 payments from the CW to Mitchell. In return for the monthly payments, the complaint alleges that Mitchell provided information about inspections at the store managed by the CW as well as stores owned by associates of the CW. The complaint further alleges that Mitchell directed the CW to purchase a pre-paid cell phone to facilitate the delivery of the inspection warnings.
According to the complaint, beginning in December 2011 and continuing until July 2012, the CW made monthly payments to Mitchell using money provided to the CW by the FBI. During that same time frame, the complaint alleges that Mitchell sent a series of text messages to the CW’s cell phone indicating dates, times, and locations of scheduled Cook County tobacco inspections.
Mitchell appeared earlier today in U.S. District Court in Chicago before Magistrate Judge Arlander Keys, at which time he was formally charged. Mitchell was released on bond pending his next court appearance, scheduled for August 17, 2012.
If convicted of the attempted extortion charge filed against him, Mitchell faces a possible maximum sentence of 20 years in prison and a possible fine of up to $250,000.
The public is reminded that a criminal complaint is not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.