Dr. Eric Whitaker, a close friend of President Barack Obama, has admitted he is cooperating with federal investigators over a probe into a $433,000 kickback scheme at the Illinois Department of Public Health, an agency he once headed.
On August 9, James A. Lewis, the U.S. Attorney for the Illinois Central District, indicted Quinshaunta R. Golden, Whitaker’s chief of staff at the Illinois Department of Public Health, on charges of conspiring to divert state funds into her own pockets and then attempting to cover it up.
Quinshaunta Golden is the niece of current U.S. Representative Danny Davis (D-IL) and is the 13th person indicted in the probe involving millions of dollars in state grants.
Golden is accused of having Leon Dingle, Jr. hire a “security consultant” at a cost of one million dollars in state funds. Dingle was director of a non-profit receiving grants from the state. This consultant, referred to as “Individual A” in the indictment, then allegedly kicked some of that money back to Golden.
Dingle and his wife, Karin, have also been indicted in the probe for allegedly diverting $3.7 million in medical grants. Prosecutors say the Dingles spent the money on such things as Mercedes-Benzes, sporting events, yacht club fees, a condo at the tony Marina Towers, fur coats, and vacation homes.
The corruption probe has already convicted one Illinois official. Former state rep. Connie Howard recently pleaded guilty to diverting to her own use up to $28,000 from a scholarship fund she created for needy students in her district. She will serve six months in prison and an additional six months under home detention.
Prosecutors have not said that Whitaker himself is a target in the probe.
Dr. Eric Whitaker has very close ties to the Obamas. It was the University of Chicago Medical Center, where Whitaker became a highly placed official, that gave Michelle Obama her $316,962 per year job in 2005. The book The Amateur written by Edward Klein alleged that Whitaker gave Reverend Jeremiah Wright a $150,000 bribe to stay quiet during Obama’s 2008 election for president.
But Whitaker goes back even further with the President. He attended Harvard Graduate School with Barack Obama in the 1990s. By 2003, he became the Director of the Illinois Department of Public Health when Barack was in state government. He was seen golfing with Obama on the President’s 52nd birthday only a week ago.