Ex-Crestwood department head convicted in tainted water case - New York News

Ex-Crestwood department head convicted in tainted water case

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Former water department supervisor Theresa Neubauer exits the Dirksen Federal Building, Chicago, on Friday, April 26, 2013. (Ting Shen / Sun-Times Media) Former water department supervisor Theresa Neubauer exits the Dirksen Federal Building, Chicago, on Friday, April 26, 2013. (Ting Shen / Sun-Times Media)
CHICAGO (FOX 32 News) -

The former Crestwood water department head accused of lying to investigators about the village's use of tainted well water in its drinking supply has been found guilty of the federal charges.

The verdict was reached Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago.

Theresa Neubauer was found guilty on all 11 counts of deliberately misleading state inspectors about the village mixing contaminated well water with Lake Michigan water in its drinking supply.

As the verdict was read, Neubauer had a blank look on her face and stared down at the table where she was seated. Family members and supporters in the first two rows behind her began crying.

Neubauer is next due in court May 15.

Closing arguments wrapped up Friday, with Neubauer's attorney telling the jurors that Neubauer "wore the jacket" in the village's water scandal for former Mayor Chester Stranczek and two other village officials.

"It's about men who, when push came to shove, are cowards," Thomas Breen told the jury. "She didn't do anything criminal. Others did. She just happened to be there."

Neubauer, 55, is on paid leave as Crestwood's police chief.

After 41/2 hours of deliberations Friday afternoon, the jury recessed for the weekend. Judge Joan Gottschall told jurors to reconvene at 10 a.m. Monday, and it was announced just before noon that a verdict had been reached.

Neubauer and water department operator Frank Scaccia were indicted in August 2011 for allegedly helping to cover up the use of the well water, which contained vinyl chloride, a carcinogen, to supplement the drinking water supply over 22 years until 2007. Scaccia, 61, pleaded guilty April 11 to one count of making a false statement and is awaiting sentencing.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tim Chapman told the jury on Friday that Neubauer was complicit in the cover-up, deliberately misleading Illinois Environmental Protection Agency inspectors about the use of the well water.

By tapping into the well to supplement the village's drinking water supply, Crestwood was able to hide the loss of lake water from leaking water lines and not make costly repairs that would mean higher water rates. Village officials regularly touted the low rates to residents.

"By telling those lies, the people involved were able to sell themselves as effective municipal managers," Chapman said.

He said Neubauer over many years prepared monthly documents that hid the well use, forged Scaccia's name on them and sent them to the IEPA and the Illinois Department of Natural Resources.

"She told lie after lie, month after month, year after year," Chapman said.

Because the village did not report its use of the well water to state authorities, it was not required to test the well for contaminants. IEPA water supplies manager David McMillian testified Wednesday that Crestwood had not tested the well water since the 1970s.

In his closing argument, Breen cast doubt on an interview Neubauer had with two U.S. EPA agents in 2009 after media reports surfaced concerning the village's use of the tainted well water.

U.S. EPA Special Agent William Oros testified Thursday that Neubauer told him that she knew the documents she submitted to authorities concerning the well water were false.

Breen said Oros had a "selective memory" of that interview and was framing Neubauer for crimes she did not commit.

"You usually don't know you've been set up until the net falls," he told the jury.

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