Fraud case targets grants awarded by President Obama’s friend

Posted: September 21, 2011 in US News

Chris Fusco & Dave McKinney
Sun Times
September 21, 2011

The indictment of a Chicago nurse accused of diverting hundreds of thousands of dollars in taxpayer funds for her personal use has turned a spotlight on an Illinois state agency that awarded her money while it was headed by one of President Barack Obama’s closest friends, Dr. Eric E. Whitaker, records show.

Under Whitaker, the Illinois Department of Public Health awarded Margaret A. Davis — the former program director of the Chicago Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association — a no-bid contract and seven AIDS- and cancer-related grants that became part of her $500,000 cash-siphoning scheme, prosecutors say.

According to federal subpoenas and other records, Davis’ June 9 indictment by a federal grand jury in Springfield is part of a larger criminal investigation involving the health department and other state agencies.

Whitaker — who’s now a top executive at the University of Chicago Medical Center — has not been accused of any wrongdoing. He says he couldn’t have known about the problems the Davis indictment describes and that he and his staff acted quickly when they became aware of problems with other contractors.

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