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Tow truck driver sentenced for targeting chicago sightseers (il)


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he 39-year-old woman had been sightseeing in downtown Chicago, and when she returned to the spot where she had parked at Columbus and Balbo drives, not far from Buckingham Fountain, her vehicle was gone.

Looking for help, she flagged down a nearby tow truck from the city’s Department of Streets and Sanitation. Driver Lennie Perry said he could help, officials said, and offered to return her car in exchange for $150 — cash.

The woman said she didn’t have the money, but Perry again offered help and directed her to his wife, whose silver Chevy Impala was parked across the street. Arica Reed-Perry took the woman to a nearby ATM, collected the cash, and then dropped off the victim at her vehicle near East Lake Street and North Stetson Avenue, about one mile north of where it was originally parked, according to officials and court records.

Immediately, the woman contacted police, sparking an investigation into the September 2014 incident that culminated this week when Cook County Judge Lawrence Flood sentenced Perry to nine years behind bars, with three years of supervised release afterward, for his role in the bribery scheme, officials said.

Perry, 43, was a pool motor truck driver for the Department of Streets and Sanitation and was fired for his criminal conduct, officials said. An investigation revealed that on three separate occasions while on duty, Perry solicited bribes of $100 to $150 from victims, officials said.

Perry’s wife, Reed-Perry, 32, separately pleaded guilty to one count of felony theft for her role in the scheme, officials said. She received 24 months of probation and was ordered to pay $150 in restitution, officials said.

At the time of Perry’s arrest, the City of Chicago's employee database listed a Lennie Perry as a tow truck driver with a salary of $70,408 a year. Police previously said Perry was hired as part of a second-chance program run by Streets and Sanitation. He had pleaded guilty to felony theft charges in 2008 and was sentenced to two years of probation.

The incident calls to mind a different era in Chicago, when small kickbacks to city employees were believed to be more common.

University of Illinois at Chicago political science professor Dick Simpson, who has studied local corruption extensively, said such practices have changed over the years.

Inspectors general for various agencies have been helpful in reducing patronage and certain types of corruption, he said. But some corruption remains unacceptably high and exerts a toll on the city, Simpson said.

“That’s a really bad thing for the city,” Simpson said, referring to the incident with Perry. “Obviously the hometown newspaper picks it up, the tourist tells friends, and just like with the murder rate, it frightens people from coming to Chicago.”

The investigation was done by Chicago police alongside the City of Chicago office of inspector general and the Cook County state’s attorney’s office, officials said.


A former city of Chicago tow truck driver is facing nine years behind bars for towing away cars of sightseers, then demanding bribes of up to $150 to return the vehicles.





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