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Old 09-15-2013, 01:11 PM
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Default Re: WATCHDOGS: Tally in Illinois grant-fraud probe so far: 13 charged, $16M embezzled

SPRINGFIELD — Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of President Barack Obama, acknowledged Thursday that he is cooperating with federal authorities working on a $433,000 kickback scheme at the state public health agency he once led, but he said he was not involved in the alleged crimes.

Whitaker declined an interview request but released a statement following the Wednesday indictment of Quinshaunta R. Golden, who was his chief of staff at the Illinois Department of Public Health. Golden is accused of conspiring with state grant recipients to divert federal money into her own pockets and then trying to cover it up.

"I had no firsthand knowledge of the activities outlined in this indictment and was not involved in any way," Whitaker said in the statement. "As requested by the U.S. attorney, I have been fully cooperating with the investigation into these matters."

There was no indication in the indictment that Whitaker knew of the wrongdoing. Asked Thursday if Whitaker is a target in the probe, James Lewis, U.S. attorney for the Central District of Illinois, offered the standard response of refusing to venture beyond details of the Golden indictment.

"At this point, the evidence has taken us to Quin Golden, and the evidence has not taken us farther," Lewis said. Pressed on whether Whitaker is in prosecutors' sights, Lewis said: "There's nothing in the material you have today that leads toward an answer to that question."

But Lewis answered "no" when asked if Obama is linked to the case, given that he is a Whitaker friend who recommended him for the public health job.

Whitaker, who golfed with Obama during the president's 52nd birthday celebration last weekend, left the state public health department in September 2007 to work with Michelle Obama at University of Chicago Medicine before leaving this year. Golden left her state job in early 2008 and joined Whitaker at U. of C.

Golden, the niece of U.S. Rep. Danny Davis, is the 13th person to be charged in a federal task force's ongoing investigation of state grant and contract fraud. Davis was aware of the investigation only "via newspaper accounts, family members and general knowledge" and never discussed it with Golden, said Davis spokesman Ira Cohen. Davis has not been questioned by federal authorities, Cohen said. more at chicago tribune
So if you golf with Obama and were ever employed at an agency that is now having problems, you are fodder for the Daily Caller/Sun Times excitement mill.

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