By Jayette Bolinski | Illinois Watchdog
CHICAGO — The former treasurer for a Chicago-area nurses association pleaded guilty Monday to a federal mail fraud charge for allegedly scheming to steal hundreds of thousands of dollars in state grant money between 2005 and 2009.
Tonja Cook, 45, will be sentenced March 25 in federal court in Springfield. She could be sentenced to 33 months in prison and ordered to pay restitution.
Cook, a registered nurse, was treasurer of the Chicago Chapter of the National Black Nurses Association. She allegedly schemed with the chapter’s program director, Margaret Davis, to steal $500,000 worth of state grant money, which Davis and Cook used for themselves, as well as Davis’ family, friends and political associates, according to authorities.
In all, Davis allegedly sought and received 15 different state grants and contracts worth more than $1 million. The grants came from the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, the Department of Public Health, the Department of Human Services and the State Board of Education. Investigators said Davis told the state agencies the money would be used for a variety of health care advocacy efforts and nursing student assistance activities.
Davis is charged with 14 counts of mail fraud and two counts of money laundering. Her trial is set to begin Jan. 15 in Springfield.