Friday, October 21, 2011

After being held for 18 months in Cook County Jail for "eavesdropping," SALF whistleblower Annabel Melongo has been released under house arrest - and an Illinois senator wants to know what's been going on: "To say this whole case is troubling would be an understatement"

Annabel K. Melongo

A week after Circuit Court Judge Steven J. Goebel signed this court order, self-described fraud whistleblower Annabel Melongo has been released under house arrest from Cook County Jail after being held 18 months on a $300,000 bond.

The charges? Per the April 2010 grand jury indictment, under Illinois's controversial eavesdropping law, the state alleges that Melongo uploaded to her website recordings of routine phone conversations with a courthouse clerk.

Now an Illinois state senator with a background in law enforcement is asking serious questions about the case.

Melongo, who's been called a "political prisoner" by bloggers who've written about her case, is a former employee of the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), a one-time high-profile, politically-connected Chicago-area nonprofit.

According to this page from Melongo's now-defunct website - it went dark while she was imprisoned - Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez has been "harassing" her since October 2006 in order to protect powerful politicians whom she alleges were involved with SALF.
In October 2006, Annabel was charged of destroying SALF's files, among them financial records. Those charges were entirely based on claims made by SALF's founder/president Carol J. Spizzirri of Grayslake, IL. According to multiple news reports, Spizzirri has a history of serious fabrications, including the false claim that she is a Registered Nurse; that she worked as a renal transplant nurse in a Milwaukee hospital; and that she earned a BSN degree from a Wisconsin college whose name she misspelled on her CV.
...Illinois taxpayers may wonder why the state's top law enforcement officer (Attorney General Lisa Madigan, whose High Tech Crimes unit assisted in the state's case against Melongo) and Cook County Prosecutor Anita Alvarez are expending so much time and public money to prosecute this trumped-up case against her rather than investigate what happened to the millions of tax dollars that went to the Save-A-Life Foundation.
Re: the above allegations against Spizzirri and more, see Where Did the Save-A-Life Money Go?, a San Diego newsweekly article from last year.

In another twist, since last year SALF has reportedly been under investigation by Attorney General Madigan's Charitable Trust Bureau. (A November letter from the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services indicates a federal investigation is also underway.)

Now Sen. Tim Bivins, a Republican from the Northwestern part of the state, has publicly expressed his concerns about the Melongo case.

Winning office in 2008 after retiring from 20 years as a county sheriff, Bivins learned about Melongo's situation after he began asking questions about another chapter in the SALF history: Gery Chico's relationship with the now-tainted nonprofit.

Gery Chico accepts award from SALF founder/president Carol J. Spizzirri (2003?)

A long-time Chicago power player who ran second to Rahm Emanuel in this year's mayoral race, Chico's appointment to head the State Board of Education was reportedly stalled in June by the Senate Executive Appointments Committee on which Bivins serves. To my knowledge, no date's been set, but Chico's slated to appear before the committee to answer questions about SALF.

Sen. Tim Bivins

In response to my inquiry about his interest in the Melongo case, Sen. Bivins e-mailed me this statement:
To say this whole case is troubling would be an understatement.
Annabel Melongo has spent a year and a half in jail and her accuser is alleged to have a tainted past, which if true, would make her a witness and alleged victim without credibility.
Did Annabel Melongo with intent destroy SALF's records or was she a whistleblower who was set up by her former boss? Any reasonable person who looked at SALF and the Melongo case would walk away with more questions than answers.
According to a friend of hers, for the first time in 18 months, last night Annabel Melongo didn't sleep in a jail cell.

8/31/11 defense motion to mandate house arrest for Annabel Melongo