Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s daughter indicted in fraud scheme
Since so many people on here like to follow whats going on with religious leaders I'm sure they wouldn't want to miss this...
SPRINGFIELD — The daughter of President Barack Obama’s former pastor was indicted Wednesday on charges of money laundering and lying to federal investigators in an expanding 2009 state grant-fraud case.
Jeri L. Wright, daughter of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, was accused of participating in a fraud scheme allegedly orchestrated by former Country Club Hills Police Chief Regina Evans and her husband involving a $1.25 million state job-training grant geared toward minorities.
Jeri Wright, 47, of Hazel Crest, was charged with two counts of money laundering, two counts of making false statements to federal law enforcement officers and seven counts of giving false testimony before a grand jury.
A federal grand jury handed down the multi-pronged indictments Wednesday that accused Jeri Wright of engaging in a series of bank transactions in November 2009 in which she cashed more than $27,800 in checks drawn from the bank account of a non-profit the Evans controlled and from which the state funds had been deposited.
The indictment described Jeri Wright as a “close friend and associate” of Evans and her husband, Ronald W. Evans, Jr.
With that cash in hand, Jeri Wright then allegedly deposited $19,888 of that total into the personal bank account belonging to Evans and her husband, “knowing that the property involved in the financial transaction represented the proceeds of some form of unlawful activity,” the indictment alleged.
When interviewed by federal investigators in August and October of 2012 and again before a federal grand jury, Jeri Wright “did knowingly make false statements” about where those state funds eventually wound up, the indictment alleged.
Rather than depositing the money into the Evans’ personal bank account, Jeri Wright claimed the funds represented several months of salary she was owed from working for the Evans’ state-funded non-profit, We Are Our Brother’s Keeper, and that those dollars were used to pay her mortgage and car loan, the indictment alleged.
“I wasn’t giving any money back to Regina,” Jeri Wright told the grand jury in a transcript that was part of the indictment. “I worked.”
But a federal prosecutor pressed her on whether she reported the money on her taxes, which she denied doing.
“I’m still waiting for the 1099,” Jeri Wright said.
“You don’t have to have a 1099 to report it,” the prosecutor countered.
“Well, I know that now,” she responded on the grand jury transcript that was part of Wednesday’s indictment.
In an earlier interview with the SouthtownStar, Jeri Wright described herself as “close to Regina Evans as a blood relative” and said her work for Evans’ non-profit involved setting up field trips to construction sites and bringing in speakers.
She denied any knowledge of the group’s finances.
“I didn’t know anything about the inner workings of how she received the money, nothing about the grant money, nothing at all,” Jeri Wright told the newspaper.
“I don’t want to add any stress to her life,” Jeri Wright said after Evans’ legal troubles surfaced. “I’m praying that her family’s health stays intact as all of this is unfolding.”
As recently as two weeks ago, authorities in Springfield were looking for cooperation against Jeri Wright, including asking a friend of hers to record a conversation. That friend, however, refused, a source with knowledge of the investigation said.
Multiple messages were left for Jeri Wright as well as Jeremiah Wright on Wednesday.
Jeremiah Wright, who retired as pastor of Chicago’s Trinity United Church of Christ in 2008 and is listed on the church website as “pastor emeritus,” became a political liability for Obama and threatened to derail his 2008 presidential bid.
The former pastor served an important role in Obama’s younger life as a spiritual leader and was the minister who presided at his marriage. Wright’s sermons also provided the title for Obama’s second book, “Audacity of Hope.”
But during the 2008 presidential campaign, Obama was forced to cut ties with his longtime pastor when videotape surfaced of Wright’s sermons that were regarded as anti-American and anti-Semitic.
The video forced Obama to deliver a speech on race relations in Philadelphia. Obama finally cut all ties with Wright following the pastor’s April 2008 appearance at the National Press Club in Washington, where instead of tamping down his profile and the controversy delivered comments that only enflamed the situation.
Jeri Wright’s indictment was part of three indictments returned Wednesday by the grand jury that has been investigating the Evans for allegedly skimming off more than half of the $1.25 million in state grant funds that were to have been used as part of the rehab of the Regal Theater on the South Side.
The Evans were hit with a superseding indictment alleging three counts of wire fraud, seven counts of money laundering and one count of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and money laundering.
The third indictment accused Regina Evans and her brother, Rickey McCoy, 52, of Chicago — who was the executive director of We Are Our Brother’s Keeper — of obstructing justice, witness tampering and conspiracy. Additionally, McCoy faces three new counts of money laundering.
The indictment alleged on Nov. 12, 2009, McCoy cashed a check worth $16,249 drawn from the non-profit’s bank account and deposited that money into the personal bank account controlled by his sister and her husband.
Evans and her husband were first charged in 2012 by federal prosecutors in Springfield and accused of misappropriating more than half of the $1.25 million in state grant money between February 2009 and June 2010.
The couple had political clout.
State Sen. Donne Trotter (D-Chicago) helped them obtain the grant money and in March 2010 urged the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity not to yank their grant funds because of questionable spending.
Trotter, who in his letter described the Evans’ non-profit as a “community necessity,” denied knowledge of any wrongdoing on the Evans’ part when he wrote the letter trying to defend their state grant money.
Despite their indictment, Trotter last year called Evans and her husband as “decent people.” The senator has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Regina Evans remains in federal custody and had her bond revoked in late March after being jailed and charged with allegedly coaching a key witness in the fraud case, Ashley Simon, two days before Simon provided false testimony to a grand jury.
Simon allegedly admitted to federal investigators she had lied under Evans’ direction to the grand jury about $17,000 in state grant funds she withdrew from the bank and $5,000 of which she deposited into Evans’ personal bank account.