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Monday, January 28, 2008                                                                                       View Comments

Pastors among those charged in $1.6 million fraud

CHICAGO | Cook County prosecutors on Friday announced a variety of felony indictments against eight people -- including three county employees and three ministers -- in a series of alleged fraud schemes against government agencies that reportedly cost more than $1.6 million.

"This is particularly shocking because much of this money was intended to help impoverished individuals looking to better themselves," Cook County State's Attorney Dick Devine said in a news release.

"As if that were not bad enough, three of the defendants were county employees in positions of trust and three others were trusted by their communities as ministers," he said.

Indicted were:

-- Charles Koen, the managing director of the nonprofit United Front Inc. and pastor of Christian Hope Church, 8849-59 S. Greenwood Ave., Chicago

-- Alex Brooks, vice president of United Front and a minister at Christian Hope Church
-- Ronnie Marshall, an United Front employee and a minister at Christian Hope Church

-- Joyce Norfleet, a United Front employee

-- Dorothy Taylor, a United Front employee

Three employees of (Cook County Board) President's Office of Employment Training, or POET, also were indicted. They are Rudolph Sanchez, Roberto Rivera and Ronald Harper.

POET and two other governmental agencies were solicited to retain United Front to provide training to displaced or disadvantaged workers. The other agencies were the mayor's office of Workforce Development, or MOWD, the Housing Authority of Cook County, or HACC.

Prosecutors said United Front contracted with the government agencies to provide training in the building trades, but little or no training took place. Various other crimes -- including official misconduct, intimidation and money laundering -- took place along the way as the schemes progressed, prosecutors said.

United Front and United Front Training School also are charged as corporate entities. However, the organizations are virtually bankrupt and fines are not likely, prosecutors said.

The indictments were returned last year and unsealed Friday.

The defendants:
-- Charles Koen, 62, of the 200 block of East 24th Street, Cairo. Bond set $500,000. Next court date is Feb. 2.
-- Joyce Norfleet, 61, of the 5600 block of North Artesian, Chicago. Bond set $75,000. Next court date is Feb. 2
-- Alex Brooks, 78, of the 1500 block of Commercial, Cairo. Bond set $25,000. Next court date is Feb. 2.
-- Dorothy Taylor, 49, of the 6600 block of North Ashland Avenue, Chicago. Bond set $65,000. Next court date is Feb. 2.
-- Roberto Rivera, 56, of the 1300 block of Wenonah, Berwyn. Bond set at $100,000. Next court date is Feb. 2.
-- Ronald Harper, 56, of the 17600 block of Balmoral, Hazel Crest. Bond set at $100,000. Next court date is Feb. 2.
-- Rudolph Sanchez, 64, of the 5200 block of Fence Lake NE Drive, Rio Rancho, N.M. He is awaiting an extradition hearing.
-- Ronnie Marshall, 42, of the 5700 block of West Birch, Milwaukee, Wis. He was not in custody Friday.