Conspiracy Nation -- Vol. 7 Num. 26

("Quid coniuratio est?")


This story has been big in the Chicago area. However for those not local to Chicago, you may not have heard of it. Because CN goes out to an international audience, it was agreed between Mr. Sherman Skolnick and myself that some background on "Silver Shovel" ought to be given before offering further details (next issue).

An article in the Chicago Tribune apparently dated January 15, 1996, tells the gist of it. John Christopher was an FBI "mole": he was used by the FBI to infiltrate certain political and business relationships. Christopher and others "took advantage of a legal loophole and exploited the economics of the late 1980s and early 1990s to make millions in profits by piling up mountains of construction debris on vacant lots in poor residential or industrial neighborhoods."

Fees for dumping waste in licensed landfills are much higher than for dumping in illegal landfills. So, contractors would want to save money by dumping in the unlicensed landfills. The consequent increased business brought in a lot of money to operators of the illegal, unlicensed dumps. What is more, it is feared (according to the Jan. 15 Tribune article) that toxic chemicals will turn up at these sites.

"For neighborhoods such as the one around the dump at Roosevelt Road and Kostner Avenue [Chicago's west side; a poor, African- American neighborhood], the damage has been done. The ugly, jagged mound of concrete, dirt and other garbage rises above the struggling community."

The article goes on to note that the illegal dumps tend to be located in "lower-income black and Latino communities."

The Operation Silver Shovel investigation "centered on city contracts for hauling construction debris," says the Jan. 7, 1996 Chicago Tribune. The FBI mole, John Christopher, "a waste hauler with a criminal past and reputed ties to organized crime," wore a hidden microphone which allowed the feds to secretly tape his conversations. Christopher agreed to do this, according to the Washington Post ("Probe Unearths Another Load Of Graft at Chicago City Hall," Jan. 12, 1996) "after he became the target of a fraud investigation in connection with the collapse of a local bank."

Because Christopher had developed political associations as he sought city contracts, he was a "ready-made mole" for investigators looking into ongoing corruption in Cook County. (Chicago is in Cook County, Illinois.)

Another Tribune article, dated January 10, 1996, also mentions "Operation Greylord", often mentioned by Mr. Skolnick:

In the 1980s, the federal Operation Greylord investigation of the Cook County courts unearthed scores of sleazy lawyers and judges who were sent to jail, disbarred or suspended for their misdeeds. The scope of corruption was incredible.

Yet even more remarkable than that, right when the scoundrels were heading off to jail and everyone knew that the feds were crawling all over the courts, some lawyers and judges kept fixing cases. That produced Operation Gambat, which sent more crooks off to jail.

Operation Silver Shovel, the latest sting operation to focus on Chicago politicians, looks like a big haul.

The central accusation is particularly galling: that politicians took bribes to allow the illegal dumping of industrial waste in their own neighborhoods.

The one positive element is that the leaders of the city's Department of Environment apparently have made an honest, dogged and successful legal effort to stop John Christopher, the FBI mole who operated five dump sites in the city.

The city officials who fought Christopher question whether the FBI's embrace of their nemesis in any way hampered their efforts. The question deserves an answer, and the feds ought to provide it. ["Caught With a Silver Shovel in Hand," Chicago Tribune, Jan. 10, 1996. Excerpts only]

So in other words, Christopher was in the illegal dumping business, he knew "all the right people", and the FBI used him to trap others -- especially bribe-taking politicians -- in return for going easy on him in regard to the previously mentioned bank collapse and other unsavory associations.

The story is summarized in the abovementioned Washington Post article. Writing in the Post, Edward Walsh reports that "investigators had uncovered evidence of more than $150,000 in bribes and other payoffs involving public officials, other bribes involving labor union activities, cocaine purchases and money laundering of more than $2.2 million..."

Says U.S. Attorney James B. Burns, quoted by Walsh in his Post article, "Unfortunately, [the investigation] demonstrates that Chicago's time-honored tradition of political corruption, including payoffs and extortion, has not vanished despite previous successful undercover corruption probes."

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