Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Major Political Donor Indicted Charge Says Scheme Cost Illinois $7 Million

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Major Political Donor Indicted Charge Says Scheme Cost Illinois $7 Million

Article excerpt

A Springfield company and two state employees conspired to defraud Illinois' welfare system of at least $7 million, a federal grand jury alleged Friday in an indictment.

Among the four men indicted is Michael R. Martin, 42, of Springfield, a major contractor for the state of Illinois and one of the largest campaign contributors to Gov. Jim Edgar.

The indictment handed up Friday alleges Martin's company, Management Services of Illinois, engaged in mail fraud, money laundering and bribery to land at least $7 million in contract fees from the Illinois Department of Public Aid.

Also involved in the scheme, the indictment alleges, was MSI officer William Ladd, 44, of Petersburg; Ronald D. Lowder, 44, of Waverly, a former Public Aid employee who joined MSI in 1994; and Curtis G. Fleming, 45, of Bloomington, a Public Aid employee.

In announcing the indictments, U.S. Attorney Frances Hulin said the allegations show "serious public corruption in the state of Illinois . . . (and) an affront to the citizens." She and other officials said the investigation of MSI's dealings with the state continues.

As part of its original complaint, the government is seeking forfeiture of property owned by the defendants.

Martin, Ladd and Lowder couldn't be reached for comment Friday afternoon. A woman answering the phone at Fleming's residence in Bloomington said he wouldn't comment. No one was answering the phone at MSI's office in Springfield.

Thomas Schanzle-Haskins, the attorney for Ladd, Martin and MSI, said his clients will plead not guilty to all the charges in the indictment and "they look forward to the opportunity to clear their names and defend themselves in court."

Edgar's office said Friday that Fleming has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of the case against him.

For years, MSI has been one of Illinois government's top private contractors, doing millions of dollars in computer database work and other services for Public Aid, the Department of Children and Family Services and other agencies. …

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