LaSalle corruption scandal comes to an end
The story is old enough now that LaSalle Bank isn't even LaSalle Bank anymore, but its former security director, George Konjuch, has finally copped to charges that he defrauded the bank by taking kick-backs in exchange for funneling work to INS Integrated Security Solutions, at the time headed by Armando Navarrete. We first reported on this back when the news of the charges broke in December of 2007. At the time, Navarrete's lawyer made this argument:
"This is not a conspiracy case," Smith argued. "You can't be a conspirator with someone that's extorting you." Smith said Navarrete was doing security work for which he was contracted, something his firm has been doing for more than 35 years, with a UL-listed monitoring center in Wood Dale, Ill., and then Konjuch started asking for small gifts--$200 here, help with paying for a wedding there--with the implication that the continuing contract depended on it. "When do you say 'no' to somebody who says what business you get and what business you don't get?" wondered Smith. "When it got to $40,000 a month, Navarrete wondered, 'How do I get out of this?' at which point all hell breaks loose."Unfortunately, that argument didn't sway a jury. Navarette was convicted of bank fraud, bribery and illegally hiding bank transactions in July and is now in jail. Navarette at least never wavered in his story:
Navarrete admitted paying $1.3 million to George Konjuch, vice president of physical security at LaSalle Bank in Chicago. The cash payments in envelopes came from multiple withdrawals to avoid required disclosure of transactions over $10,000. In addition, prosecutors said, Navarrete gave Konjuch $20,000 in free security equipment at his home, $15,000 in free landscaping and snow removal, a $10,000 cashier's check for his daughter's wedding, and paid his way to Las Vegas for joint gambling junkets. But Navarrete testified that Konjuch extorted him, demanding the money or threatening to cut off his business.Konjuch wasn't shy, that's for sure. Unfortunately for Navarrete, of the $45 million he billed out to Konjuch, "A witness for the prosecution compared the invoices to those of other companies and INS bills to other banks, and testified that $30 million of the payments were unjustified." Oops. Part of me feels for Navarrete, though, especially after reading this paragraph:
His client is a Cuban immigrant who served five years in the U.S. Air Force, then worked on jet fighters for Lockheed, before getting a job as a cash machine technician with INS, then becoming operations manager and buying the company in 1997.The guy pulled himself up by his bootstraps. Unfortunately, it seems like maybe he got accustomed to those bootstraps being of the finest leather and went a little too far in his quest for the American dream. If we're going to grade these guys as scumbags, I'm giving Konjuch a solid 10 (after all, he's in charge of protecting people and assets, and he used that position to illegally pay for his daughter's wedding! Is this guy auditioning for the dad role in Say Anything 2?), but Navarrete is only a 7 at most. Offering a bribe is bad, but taking it is worse.