Mystery surrounds pension fund in Stone Park - Dallas News | myFOXdfw.com

Mystery surrounds pension fund in Stone Park

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News & Better Government Assoc.) -

Gritty Stone Park doesn't seem like the kind of place where you would find magic, but amazingly the entire Village Board vanished when FOX 32 News started asking questions about its pension fund.

Federal court documents revealed that in the 1980s and 90s, the late Chicago mob boss Anthony Centracchio handed out thousands of dollars in bribes to Stone Park officials.

"It had gone on for a long time," said Former Federal Prosecutor Scott Levine.

Levine worked on the organized crime unit that nailed then-Stone Park Mayor Robert Natale, and Former Stone Park and Northlake Police Chief Seymour Sapoznik.

Both men pled guilty to taking monthly payoffs to protect the mob's illegal multi-million dollar video poker business.

Levine said Sapoznik took it a step further.

"He was tasked with warning his organized crime compatriots about government investigations when he learned of them in his role as police chief," added Levine.

At Sapoznik's sentencing, another former Stone Park police chief, Harry Testa, who was doing prison time for dealing coke, testified he, too, took money from the mob. So, imagine our surprise when FOX 32 discovered the three ex-cons are still drawing pensions from Stone Park, totaling more than $43,000 a year.

"It is fairly unusual," Louis Kosiba said.

Kosiba runs the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund, which provides pensions to virtually all village governments in Illinois. Because of its tiny size, Stone Park is not required to join IMRF and instead runs its own pension fund.

Kosiba said nearly all Illinois public pensions include an important rule designed to discourage corruption.

"Any felony conviction related to or arising out of your employment will terminate your pension," added Kosiba.

However, not only is Former Chief Sapoznik still receiving a pension, amazingly Stone Park Mayor Ben Mazzula and village trustees appointed Sapoznik to sit on Stone Park's pension board.

"You literally have a person who's being entrusted with the financial future of the participants of that pension plan. He or she needs to be as clean as Caesar's wife, so to speak," said Kosiba.

Mayor Mazulla wouldn't talk on camera, so FOX 32 went to a recent village board meeting to ask why they would appoint a mob-connected felon to the pension board.

"Chief please have everybody clear the room so we can have--yeah."

Trustees went into executive session to discuss personnel issues, so FOX 32's Dane Placko patiently waited outside.

However, when it seemed to be going a little long, Dane asked a village official to take a peek. The trustees had disappeared.

The parking lot was empty too, except for a car driven by Trustee Loretta Teets.

"Hi trustee. Why'd you guys sneak out the back door?" asked FOX 32's Dane Placko.

Teets pulled away and left without responding.

"If I was a taxpayer in Stone Park, and knew my tax dollars were going to support pensions for felons, not to mention one of these felons sits on the pension board, I'd be irate," said Patrick Rehkamp of the Better Government Association.

Only one of the ex-cons, Harry Testa, returned our calls. He declined to comment.

There's no law against putting a felon on a pension board, but experts said it's extremely unusual.

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