« Reveal

The City – Revealed (Rebroadcast)

2019-05-25 | 🔗

A giant, mysterious illegal dump in Chicago was part of a federal investigation that brought down a dozen corrupt politicians, but it left neighborhood residents angry and feeling used.

Don’t miss out on the next big story. Get the Weekly Reveal newsletter today.

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Hey, it is your favorite host in all of pod custom. Now for the rest of the year, I'm gonna be asking you to join us by becoming a member of reveal reveal is all about going deep, pulling on threads telling stories that matter for more than three years now reveal has been fighting a lawsuit. That's been jeopardizing our very existence of restore we about an organization called planet aid. Our story raises serious questions about whether international aid was actually reaching the people. It was intended to help and what's more, our story was truthful and we stand by it. We believe it is our duty to fight attacks like this, but fighting a lawsuit comes at a huge costs, are legal fees alone totalled more than seven million dollars? Luckily, we have pro bono legal support to help our in house counsel, but it still takes significant resources, resources that should be used to do more public service journalists, this kind of investigative,
It takes time and it cost money. If you believe in the work, we do the absolute best way to support us is by becoming a member of reveal to do it just text. The word reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven standard data rates apply and you can text stop or cancel at any time, also all new members who donate at least five dollars a month. We get our facts, t shirt again just text. The word reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven and all you who already support our work. I would offer a deep sincere thanks. We can't do this work without being willing afforded twenty twenty. We have big things plan, so let's go to some good work together. From the metaphor for investigative reporting and p r ex this is reveal a mallet. When taking Nicholls was a kid growing up in Chicago in the early nineties. He knew that
lurking near his home was an evil rabbit. Evil rabbit up. There is a growing rebel usage these key and we re at the river there. We will look before where they were there were say that will read this: rabbit, roamed, the hills when day key and his friends like to play, we played a everything hey see him when his snow, This leaves us led down on this What time will you ride your bike up and down the hill to do with that big of a hill that was fun? They can look down onto the roof of the elementary school and see all the basketball star, gotten stuck up there over the years and they could look east towards the horizon and see all the skyscrapers, downtown.
Now Chicago's built on prairie land, it's pretty flat, so you might be wondering about those hills and how they came to be just six miles from downtown in the West side, neighbourhood of North Lonsdale there's an explanation dick. He remembers one time in the fourth or fifth grade. He was running up the side of the tallest hills, a mountain honours and his foot dislodged something something big: a bolder or peace. A concrete rolled down the mountain towards his brother? Me rode over his thing and it was hanging off so I had to hold it together and I welcome all in his finger until we get to the hospital they had. The re attached it's been about two or three days in a hospital. The mountain was actually a job and illegal land in a vacant lot resides grass and wild flowers and even trees.
It was six stores of concrete and rebar plus rusted our cars and old mattresses that the kids used for trampoline today we're gonna, tell you how about landfill came to be in north landfill and grew to be, six story, stall to whole city blocks wide and five silly blocks lock now imagine living right next door to that. This is a story about the strange, complicated and crooked ways that power flows in American Citys USA today investigated this gigantic landfill in their pike, ass, this he's called city. We first read it in December of twenty eighteen and Robin Amer host Increase The sitting closed, storing I'll write, so we're talking about a dump that is six stories high in Chicago yeah. That's right! Six stories tall- and it was on this huge lot- twenty one acres, the size of thirteen for
all fields. The story of how this huge dump came to be in the middle of a residential neighbourhood is one of the most striking stories of corruption and institutional indifference that I've ever come across its stunned me when I first found out about it about how ruthless this city can be about how stark the divisions are between black and white, rich and poor between the people who whore the power and the people who have to fight for their fair share. There's one man at the centre of this story who sets everything into motion here. He is ok with all the boys. We're all gonna pay. I was the first one. Basically that started all adopt the first,
No. I mean a lot of money over Nobel Japan. China made a lot of money, and so I started working want an assurance that could horseshoe for years to come. This guy sounds like a character straight out. A good Phyllis yeah he's pretty unapologetic the can of worms he bend unleashed this chain of events that went way beyond Chicago actually, the F b I would be giving him cover, as he built the damp he's, not at the very beginning of the story of what were difficult to get back to him later. But what do we want a little bit and take it from the very beginning, I am in the months to come Richard
M Daily was the son of the beloved and feared mayor Richard J daily. He presided over Chicago's political machine from the nineteen. Fifty is through the seventies. His son was sworn into office in nineteen. Eighty, nine, it's maybe I all setbacks disappointments and battles, because in the campaign for better Chicago or all allies, since in sixty is still mills and other. Factories had been shutting down all over the Midwest in Chicago the city lost hundreds of thousands of jobs, and nearly a million residents and the new Your daily wanted Chicago too, in a wake up from this post, industrial slumber and thrive. Free enterprise does one always there watch a decline so dear.
Began a major push to revamp Chicago's aging downtown and he paid special attention to tourist friendly destinations in the loop and along the lakefront. He set about rebuilding crucial parts of the city's infrastructure cutting its roads and highways by the spring of nineteen. Ninety the year after he took office, the city was full of workers and hard hats and orange fasts breaking down concrete jack, hammering Asphalt loading and indeed on trucks and howling, it away law, abiding trucking companies, carded Mr Brie too distant landfill, but some trucks, headed west out of the loop over the Chicago River, into the city's neighborhoods. Until they came to a vacant lot Northland ale, I visited there. I met a woman named Gladys Woodson. She lived in the neighborhood since moving to Chicago from Mississippi in the nineteen sixties,
and she told me how one day in the spring of nineteen, ninety a neighbor knock on her front door memory. Was the president of the forty one hundred block came down and ask for Miss Woodson and I told him what do you want with her Miss Woodson with the president of the four thousand three hundred block together these black clubs kept an eye on the street and make sure the community was safe. He said: did you not know? That is a? illegal dumping of across the street, and I say no it'll come on. Let's walk anew. First ball. I saw a lot of trucks, Lana blacken the view and behind the true there was a pile of stuff did. Was accumulating
and so, when you saw this line of trucks and this pile of rubble, what did you think? I think? Oh no? We can do so with you. This is bad health care for children out. It's just gonna. Take on neighbourhood down, they couldn't figure out who is responsible. Other trucks coming and unloading rubble and their neighborhood, so they held stay gouts and saw that the trucks kept coming by day, but also in the debt. Tonight. We have come out here, like one two o clock at night to wash the trucks go in and take down license plates number one and two o clock in the morning in the morning. We used a medium up here, because we think that if we can get the licence late number, we can turn a mobile to the police. So what we did, we start didn't license plate, and what we found? He had one set of played on Friday and undo.
Instead of playing on the bed. It seemed really suspicious, and that was before they saw the man in charge. Any time. You see anybody drive over a vacant In a memo you know is no good What did you think was happening back there when you saw him drive up in a limo thought he was I don't know game banging. What's something you know. You know I didn't know what to think A man in the limo was a heavy sat white guy with a gruff voice and receding hairline. Eventually. Ms Woodson in her neighbours would learn the man's name John Christopher, and that was connected to the mob? What in Chicago we call the outfit but thou later in the meantime, over the next days and weeks.
The piles of rubble have getting taller and power, and the dust blowing off them got worse and worse. Some is Woodson and her fellow block club captains organised a letter writing campaign. We so with Lundy are United Block Club councils are requesting that you in to see us in protest and the installation of they sent a letter to the zoning board and the Water Department and the department of streets and sanitation descended to the mayor and a member of Congress. We rode dear bad from moves who to whose then I thought was. We can't take all of these peoples and found out what was going on that somebody with stopping Miss Woodson was right, at least at first. In June of ninety ninety, about a month after receiving her letters, the city final sent an inspector to check out the dumb by then it was already
taller than you are. I, as the inspector put it more than six feet tall Henry Henderson was a lawyer for the city whose specialists, in environmental issues. People who were working has inspectors in the city called me out and said we ve got this huge amount of material building up in this The killer side, so we got in our cars and went out to visit in who is this is this? Is gigantic a gigantic issue Henry Henderson, had learned the John Christopher, the guy, Miss Woods and saw the limo was actually running the dumps. So we called Christopher into his office for a meeting was not the first time that you had not with him. Yes, what did he look like how duties eeg. What what impression did he leave on YO is very, very large person. He had one of these incredibly colorful sweaters on oil rig up God, sweater gonna, like that yeah and I was struck by the
It looked like he had his nails die going into this meeting. Henderson thought that he could demand and that John Christopher Stop and that he would but John Christopher Head permits that he'd gone from the city to operate. A rock crusher which can then be sought back to construction companies to use in their building projects. So I was his story about what he was doing his particularly aiming at this construction to breathe. It can be recycled Doing is particularly aiming at. This is construction to breathe, it can be recycled. I want to crush it, and the material has Value Swann Recycler animal be require. That was his claim to what what is activities were about. John Christopher was not going to stop dumping and Northland L and every day the prairie wind would blow through the piles of debris and cover North Langdale in a layer of thick gray dust when the death will slide
look gloves on your live gloves will befall dirt. You good taste, they all your lives in your mouth. This is Michel, Ashford and ninety. Ninety she was nineteen years old. It will be just a big cushion You have the closure as cover your mouth or whatever, because once we experience that we knew up become the where we're will cover up for one go on our mouths. Some news that do Michel's mother, Rita Ashford says the dump me the neighborhoods prostitution problems worse, the guys they could come pull up on the side of the door and that's where they did their business said just to be clear. That dump had gotten so big that it cast the side street.
High and it will be down in turn and dates and everything right they own street. The damp had become a magnet, that's actually a term in environmental circles. It was a magnet in that it had attracted other illegal and unsavory staff and the rats girl. If we want a hundred Red save one, what people were fighting those red they would get in their home one. One and people were fighting those red, they were getting their homes Mason a bad I'll run our blood everybody was dinner with the red, but worse than the rats, the dump was affecting people's health. Several of Miss Ashford Grandchildren had severe for asthma and some is woodson- elderly neighbours relied on oxygen tanks. The dust from the dumps was making it harder for them to breathe.
Some is Woodson in her neighbours decided to confront the dumper. So a group of us who walked over there to talk to John Christopher- and we ask him- you Know- could even stop whatever he was doing over there. He told us he could do whatever you please, and we told you were ok we're. All court s if you do go to court and when I leave em Oliver Thine just like it, he is now he was very air. So how did you feel after that confrontation, less gettin, let's go to court, and so they did with Henry Henderson's help the city sued John Christopher. In June of ninety ninety, This
the mountain in Chicago Neighbourhood converges with federal prove this was sacred undercover investigation, and so we want kind to ended and does it take them? Teams that road to search warrants then I M accident. Do I need a lawyer and they told me you might I remember my knees- just fell. Mama me almost fell to the floor, coming up next, operation silver shovel. This is reveal from the centre for investigative reporting and p r from the centre for investigative reporting and p r eggs. This is reveal I'm Allison Today we ve been talking about mountain of trouble in Chicago neighbourhood made up of construction, debris, greed and deception that six,
always hide and five blocks, Long Robin Amer of USA, today's podcast called the city has been telling us the story, so Robin catch some little bit. We ve got a neighborhood, that's getting tons of construction debris from all over Chicago dumped on them and their having trouble getting their voices heard downtown out from what I know about Chicago politics. When you can't get your trash picked up or your potholes filled the person. You call your alderman your neighborhood representative on the City Council was he able to help them so bill. Henry was the aldermen of the twenty fourth word, which included North Langdale and Gladys Watson's Block Club wrote to him when they were trying to get rid of the dump like that beer him, because he was a street person. You know he was is the bond the street. You will never saw. No, you know you can have everything you want and if you want some
didn't really bad. You figure how bad you want that, and you will have to give up something to get something. They'll Henry was first elected alderman in nineteen eighty three and he did what aldermen often did to build support. They headed up favours like city jobs and contracts, but he was also known as a deal make are in fact he was reportedly the one who entered boost John Christopher to the owner of the vacant, lot where the dump was and leader people would learn that he'd also taken bribes from John Christopher, like five thousand dollars a month too through the city didn't interfere with the dumping operation so that dump took on a nickname, This has been Henry son Conrad we was the car is driving pass initiating caught at Mount Henry. It was smiling. He was quite subdued about quite sad about in the lot away. He was nightmares. Nothing I can do about it like he'd, been do
like he had been used to adopt at their after the dumping started, bill. Henry was indicted on unrelated federal corruption charges. He lost his bid for reelection. He developed lung cancer and died the following year. His case never went to trial. By ninety ninety two John Christopher had damned more than thirty one thousand truckloads of stuff in North Langdale, the city had taken him to court and the judge didn't by his claim that he was some kind of recycler. So John Christopher lost the case. The judge gave him thirty mile to clean up the site, but that meant the Northland YO residents would have to keep living next to the job for at least two and a half more years
But, rather than clean up the site, John Christopher disappeared. So the city appeal: to the state and federal environmental Protection Agency is. Finally, ninety. Ninety four- four years after the dumping started, they came out to Northland ill. But they only removed about a hundred and fifty truckloads of stuff. They determined were hazardous. Like barrels of chemicals, they left. The thirty one thousand truckloads of construction debris. Behind this. Six story- mountain was still there, so that's it! Then I mean and destroy them stuck with this mountain. Well, no, not exactly! This is where the story takes a really crazy turn. What happened to German Christopher after John Christopher disappeared?
Henry Henderson, who was now Disease Environmental Commissioner, reached out to one other federal agencies that he thought could help in this situation. She because he had a personal connection at the: U S, Justice Department, scope to be an old friend, first assistant that the time Henderson called on Scotland's are first assistant. U S attorney in the northern District of Illinois, in other words, bazaar, was one the federal government top criminal prosecutors in Chicago. So Henry Henderson talks to Scotland are saying you were having will of our time, and we think that this is a larger criminal endeavour here, and we really need some but Henderson says his old friend dismissed him telling him This was a municipal waste problem. I asked Scotland are about this conversation
We know about the illegal dumping guy, not very well, but we couldn't tell on their Christopher was working under cover at that time. This was a sacred undercover investigation, and so we weren't kind to ended. So I had to rebuff him wait on Robin. Do you mean tat? John Christopher was working under cover for the FBI, Ways Agus John Christopher, who started this illegal dump is actually working for the United States, yeah? That's right! How did it happen are so it all started with this investigation into a bank fail, are these local bank in Chicago went belly up in ninety ninety one and an FBI special agent named pony de Angelo started. Looking at the bad loans the bank made, he was an expert in white,
collar crime and organised crime, and he discovered that the biggest bad loan this bank had made had gone to one man John Christopher, Mr Chris Veronica, of tracking companies, some other businesses, and he had borrowed a camera the exact amount, but I believe the total deficit the bank, was in the millions tube in five million. That's what John Christopher would later sand court through these companies borrow money and was not paying the loans back on time and they had to be ultimately be written off. Pony De Angelo, looked up John Christopher in the FBI's database and learned tat. He had a prison record and mob ties. Saudi Angelo calls John Christopher thinking. He can help the FBI asked the higher up the bank, so I told him I was then I looked at your dealings with cosmopolitan bag. I've got you dead right,
financial fraud with your loan application, and I found in my We are the people are very curious. They want to know what information you have about them. What evidence now? mention I'm in. I know you just gotta jail. You had a couple kids may we can help each other they arranged to meet at It's a hut. I mean, if you want to know a mob guy, take a picture. John Christopher built like a bull about five ten, boggy wearing a members only jacket talks dams and does not just have just a funny guy. I laid out my case against him. I'm fell italian. You just listen to me talk. They start me regularly and one day during these meetings he goes. Oh, are you interested in politicians slightly. What do you have on politicians? Well little
the time that John Christopher been bribing in paying off, and do you want a renewed do with alderman and very city officials? John Christopher turned out to be a bribing machine. He told the FBI about bribing Bill Henry the North Bondo, Alderman and Others Chicago Alderman and city inspectors. Keepin bribing public officials is for adult life, the F b I knew about John Customers, mob connections and criminal past plus. Is the to call a stand up thy. He went to prison once and didn't give anyone up. Guy like him actually talking to the FBI.
Telling them about his illegal activity was incredibly rare. So it occurred to the FBI that he would be the perfect mall. John Christopher was the kind of guy you'd, never suspect, of working with the FBI, but it also come out of prison feeling like the mob hadn't taken good care of his family. While was away, and so John Christopher agreed to wear a wire to cooperate with the FBI, Strap tape, recorder to his body and go looking for dirty politicians to bribe the f Operation silver shovel, like the thirty pieces of silver Judas, got four betraying Jesus, like the bulldozers at John Christopher Stump assuredly forthwith. Through the FBI, to get them in this one its January. Ninety ninety five and John Christopher is sitting down to lunch with us
I do see the FBI to get them in this one. It's you January. Ninety ninety five and John Christopher, down to lunch with the Chicago aldermen. There are the West side, soul, food, restaurant called Edna, that's aldermen, Hersey Giles Ordering the shortbreads he's really hard to hear in this tape, because the taper quarter is across the table from here hidden somewhere on John Christopher, his body in ownership should target, which was, of course sergeant. I let the hotly went away. John Christopher tells the aldermen that he has a construction firm, small work complement. What cute real smart and join Christopher explains that he wants. A content for a shopping center being built in Percy Giles as Ward. I want to ask you really work number and he offers Percy Giles
ten thousand dollars to guarantee that he gets it. Ten thousand you gotta watch on urban waste recovery effort to be given ok, what amendment of trying to get some workers that will receive her foot John, which occur and Percy Giles meet at at does again and this time John Christopher brings the money with him. The first of Cooper and Percy Giles meet at address again and this time John Chris, He brings the money with him. The first of two all of five thousand dollars, he says to Percy Giles, here's the five thousand, it's all there and Giles takes the money. The F b I had recruited John Chris
for to catch the kind of crooked politicians who let him dumping North Lonsdale, John Christopher any of them willing, but others less. So here's a tape him. Aid of a conversation with an Illinois lawmaker named re free s. What spelled out right now, I don't need any kind of right like this before his alleged John Christopher, tries to put him at ease. He basically says all politicians take money. Thank you would imagine life just that's right. What about me? You can't make me the politicians, How do you think they get elected and they don't take money? You just got to find the right proof.
Operation. Silver shovel lasted for three and a half years, although it started with public corruption,. It eventually broadened to include things that had nothing to do with politics. Let alone the Northland L dumps John Christopher helped the FBI catch people, wandering old, mob cash. They even folded in a drug bus. Along the way, and so in January ninety ninety six. It was finally time for the feds to state what they called the take down. We set up a kind of a command post, special agent, Jim Davis was in charge and from their command posts. We issued a refugee or who told me to go at the same time, and then we just waited for results more than a. Federal agents stand out across the city. The command post was in the federal building downtown Jim Davis station. There. With four five other agents to help a man, the phones and manage the teams. In the field we are doomed wrote to search warrant.
But the most focus was on the actual interview. Teams again run out an interview and subjects the agents interrogated more than forty targets, including seven Chicago aldermen, three officials from the water treatment agency and to city inspectors. They question everyone at the exact same time. That way, no one target could worn any other target to hush up or destroy evidence or get a lawyer. Percy Giles was in his west Side office when FBI B. I showed up he's the aldermen who met John Christopher Edna, sulphide restaurant. I me it. I know Don Christopher First Amanda told him no, because it didn't down on me later. The do no one by them lying about their relationship with John Tricycle would show that they know that there is some reason for them to lie about that relationship. Ridge shows that they have some understanding that it is a corrupt relationship accident. Do I need a lawyer and they told me you might when I went home that night- and I remember
I was nervous, so nervous. When I will tell my wife about it, I remember my knees. Just fair minded me almost fell to the floor. Percy Giles was afraid but you didn't think he done anything wrong, but other aldermen came clean, we're multiple conversions came. It were being reported back to us in the command post, which was really surprising. We didn't expect it and I think that these guys were so stun to learn that John was working with us, that they just figure he had nowhere to go. An alderman named Ambrosio Drano had taken thirty one thousand dollars in bribes from John Christopher in exchange for helping him with his dumping operations in interviews after the take down, Moronto had trouble explaining to the press. Why he'd succumb to John Christopher Charms, you know I don't think that whenever anybody does anything wrong, they really know why I dont know the answer that I was a smooth operator was yes, he was I I can't tell you.
From the initial meeting that I had with him and the first time that I actually went with him and accepted the money had been several months, I mean he had called me in badgered me. Calls me and asked me asked me to me with him, and I refused why I finally gave him. I don't know there was a mistake. I mean I did. I accepted responsibility for what I did. Aldermen Madonna plead guilty and went to prison for thirty months. We got out. He ran for office again, but added of going back to prison a second time on new corruption charges over three years federal prosecutors indicted a dozen Chicago officials caught up in operation, sulphur shovel almost all plead guilty or were convicted of corruption. The only politician who was acquitted of all charges was re. Free S, the reluctance,
state legislator, who never made an arrangement like that before Alderman Percy Giles does he still bewildered as to why the F B, I chose him as a target. He argues that the F b I turned, and otherwise loyal public servant into a figure of corruption. It's mine. In my business running my war, they send someone to me and give me if only money just to manufacture prime dna. So all we got him, he committed a crime. To me, they can do that with anybody. They want. I think I was told him fair, without delay, silver shovel over and done with what happened: the John Christopher vacant Lot I don't think that we had any obligation to clean up Mount Henry because first vote, about what we do and we didn't create. That's next
on reveal from the centre for investigative reporting in p r ex this is reveal I'm outlets and we ve been hearing about major FBI investigation in Chicago in the mid nineties caused stirred. Nationwide in Chicago. Today, federal officials announced charges in what they call operation in silver shovel a wide, ranging probe of public corruption, operation. Silver shovel lasted three and a half years at the heart of it all was John Christopher, a man with an extensive criminal record, a man who are working as an FBI, informing them six stories of construction debris in the West side, neighbourhood of North Lando residents. There call the large announced
we dump cite the mountain and they accuse the federal government of allowing Christopher to continue dumping and poor and minority neighborhoods, while using him to target public officials? U S attorney burns denies the charge Robin aim has been our guide and telling the story she's the hosts of a pike ass from USA today, while the city- and it looks at how power is wielded in American Citys IRAN Hale. So I guess the feds were happy with how operation silver show, I went down oh yeah, absolutely I mean by the time this wrapped up. The feds would refer to operation silver shovel as one of the biggest and most successful corruption probes in Chicago history. They have investigated more than forty targets indicted, a dozen politicians on corruption charges, most of whom went to prison and they had also John Christopher to launder millions of dollars and old, mob cash really hitting the outfit, the Chicago Mafia, where it hurt and even fold
but in a drug bust along the way, so this investigation was, by their account very successful what about the people? of Chicago, where they happy to see all these corrupt politicians Gilda. Ah, yes, and no, the investigation did not play out in Chicago. Neighborhoods the way it played out on the nightly news. First, almost all the targets, this investigation or black or latino. There was a lot of criticism of this and the government. Justified. Their result by saying will look. This is just how the operation unfolded. One aldermen when introduce us to another to another to another. It was all about their personal connections and a lot of other people felt betrayed not just by their elected officials who taken bribes but by the investigation is of how so well in North Mondeo, John Christopher Smell, was still standing? I mean by the time the take down actually happened. This giant illegal construction to breed dump
had loomed over the neighborhood for almost six years and the FBI and the U S attorney's office had no intention of removing it. It wasn't part of the investigation or part of the take down This is what Jim Davis, who was the agent in charge of the investigation, told me about this, but I think that we have the obligation to clean up Mon Henry, because first one while in what we do and we didn't the situation There are agencies that are responsible for cleaning up stuff like that, that's not our business. What about that? Couldn't the EPA be brought in to help clean up the dump? All in theory but the EPA looked at the situation and said there's no hazardous waste. Here. This is a municipal waste problem. It's not our job to clean this up, and so the city was left holding the bill here, of course, the city, already stew, John Christopher and one, but instead of forcing him to clean it up, he had just declared bankruptcy.
And had effectively disappeared and the FBI. In giving John Christopher Cover, while he was an informant for them, made this problem worse for all the people, who had been fighting him? They were said about him. Vienna, mall, there's something there we never even anticipating on one of my visits north long day. I'll, Rita and Michel Ashford told me that they were shocked to suddenly learn that the man had they been Fighting for six years was working for the FBI, what we say. This, while we couldn't get any help, this one can get any help women they knew all. This is going on all long before we the beginning of my voice, the reason why we couldn't get any because it was all a government and a new From the very beginning, we just figure that John Christopher had that concrete pal
John Christopher Gladys, would send the block of president in Rwanda you told me that she and her neighbours or collateral damage they ve been used. They were never able to get traction fighting John Christopher, and now they could see. Why since the block of President North Langdale told me that she and her neighbours or collapse. Rolled damage, they have been used, they were never able to get traction fighting John Christopher and now they see why he had they are begging. You know cause people there. We will contact in seem too you know, was pushing didn't, go not ass written for everyone, a small take the people dead on own oxygen machines that we have few people to move out of a neighbor who just moved because they could no longer disdain
trust. This people that don't had a asthma attack the people that own on oxygen machines, that we have few people to move out of the neighborhood just moved, because they could no longer the stand. The dolphins, The news about operation silver shovel seem to confirm what they ve been saying for years about the government's neglect of their neighborhood, because this face the fact they wouldn't put them up in the world community, not at all John didn't have to be allowed to still have that dog, because you had ammunition to use against him. What about junkies For me, what would happen to him when the whole thing broke when operation. Silver shovel was revealed while, even though on Christopher had agreed to wear a wire for the FBI and had become the centrepiece of this major undercover investigation. His the patient was not actually like a get out of jail free card. He did not have a
well with the FBI for full immunity, so FBI, agent Davis, told me that at the beginning of the investigation he had worn John Christopher not to do. Anything illegal that wasn't part of it. Masturbation, I would just tryin reassuring and say look of your straight with us. You know if you continue to to do what we are asking you to do. If you know, if you stay out of trouble, you're gonna be ok, but John Christopher did not hold up his end. The bargain, while the investigation was going on, while he was cooperating with the FBI. He was still committing other crimes and he went behind the bureau's back in other ways. So, for example, at the same time, operations Four shovel was going on. The FBI was also looking into this illegal goods, Billing operation Roy and by an alleged my boss, named Tony, send truck Yo Yo John referred to as his uncle pony, and that was a problem for me. Because we had a wire and uncle Tony
The wire was a video camera. Hidden in the ceiling of pony Central ceos office. And every time John went in to see him. We were recording John in front early criminal conversations which, adding to the mouth evidence that we are going to have to present against him at the end of this case. It's not totally clear what John Christopher was doing there because he was never charged in this illegal gambling case. But him showing up on another investigations. Wire me things really complicated for Jim it s in his fellow agents. I would have liked to have said John stay away from Uncle Tony's office, but I can't tell John that we have a a wire and Uncle Tony's office. John Christopher also neglect. The file, his federal income tax returns in ninety ninety two and ninety three. I know it seems
oh mundane, but ultimately this is why he went to prison. John Christopher was sentenced to Thirty nine months in prison, but he was never forced to clean up the dams or provide restitution. To anyone in Northland Ill, and then, after he got out of prison, he disappeared again, maybe for good this time you mean he's been gone for twenty years, and nobody knows where he is did. Did you try and tracking down yeah? I Looking for John Christopher for almost three years, trying to figure out what happened to him after he got out of prison because he cooperated with the FBI, he could not safely returned to his own life or even be in Chicago without FBI protection. So for him everywhere. I could think of an hour. I just I found nothing Eventually. I learned the FBI I had set him up with a new name and a nuisance,
security, number and a new life, and that there was this FBI. Agent in Saint Louis, who might have all that information. So I asked, if you talk to me and if not if you would pass John Christopher a message for me and this was the response. I got from the FBI's public information officer, I wrap in its Rebecca who, at the F B, I think, will I spoke with the ancient and he says I appreciate your sympathy for the force, but not surprisingly, he declined to participate again. He says that it is our responsibility to protect the source, and I hope that you understand that. So. Thank you very much and let me go giving advice, but even after all, this time it appears that the FBI is still protecting Joan Christopher. What about all the trust he left behind him in the dump itself
what happened to it while, when the feds wash their hands of this problem and said by Chicago and with all the intense public scrutiny and the national media coverage, that operation silver shovel had garnered the city. Finally, step down and started awarding contracts to companies who could hall all this rubble away. Remember the LAW or Mount Henry one stood spanned twenty one ache hers and the mountain itself with six stories tall. So these clean up contracts, we're gonna, be really big and really lucrative. The cleanup had just start in January? Ninety? Ninety six, when the Reverend Jesse Jackson stepped in, We have the right to remove debris in our community because of Don't be a good! a job for someone at the job, so reverence
access to civil rights activist and two time Kennedy for President had first come to Chicago in the nineteen. Sixty is his rainbow push. Coalition is headquartered here and the way Jackson tells it when he first learned about operations over shovel. He realised that this clean up presented a unique opportunity. Junk river had dumped in a black neighbourhood and he had helped take them. Black politicians. But someone was gonna, get paid to clean up the dumps and Jackson wanted the city to hire black owned. Trucking firms to do at reversal in there was resistance because the answer. Those who use again he's got a job jobs, the men and their right to get them We demanded the right to circumvent this system, so rare Jackson mounted a major protest to back up his demand. We all know the trucks and Men were movers on. This
jade Saturday, in early February, nineteen insects, dozens of deep trucks and bulldozers plastered with signs. It said things like we on our fair share and higher us to clean up the dams. All these trucks lined up in a convoy and how id for Northland Ale the dna of full mile tripled. The city Well now we just folks in Prague, trailers and dumpsters we learned and prove across the city forever for due to ours, The convoy arrived in north one day, all the company that had started the clean up blocked the entrance to the sites but Jack in the truckers eventually got into the site, and he gave a speech from on top of a tractor He threatened to continue the protests into the summer when the democratic I shall convention was gonna, be in Chicago in advance. The ninety six election does
Tribune characterizes threats. This way give us what we want or watch as we wreak havoc on your big important party. This It is only then that the mayor agreed to hire black owned firms to clean up the dump. Those well approaches the work, but the rest, but of north long were not impressed when the dumping had started in their neighborhood Reverend Jack was one of the people they written to asking for help, and we Watson says they never heard back from him. At least not in laughter, operation, silver shovel was finished, and the cap Emma crews arrived the silver share story broke and in then they think I saw with Jesse Jackson Stan Papa PAL San year. We do
It is an enviable, then. No, you didn t leave in took credit for a lot of stuff that had been done, but there was way after the fight the queen of continued through the spring of nineteen. Eighty six, one a wine dumb trucks filed under the lot and backed up to the mountain bulldozers can slowly chipping away at the tightly packed mass of concrete and dirt filling up truck after truck after truck residents like Gladys Woodson who'd, why in those early days as John Christopher set up shop now watch the process Only were wind sort of goods presently a wound. Now we now he's gone, it's gonna be gone. Can you tell us what that was like dusty boat
with the trucks company and to get the stuff release day spray the street down Chris John. Never there never did eight years after John Christopher first showed up in North Lonsdale. The clean up was over and it was all like. Oh Papa, slow and everything changed here: a reader, Ashford, daughters, sure Rina and Michel disappeared, as was the one they gonna name all night long. They will be role in all night long, given it at once a rope, and will you look that the path with well you know the key issues the run up in its turn on the top we went from being up. Debts is used with Sir Robin happened to this vague and not in the end. Twenty one acres located right there in the city. It must have been pretty coveted piece of real estate. Oh yeah, it was basically like a blank canvas. Just waiting for the right kind of development
and the could build community ties or bring jobs and money back into the neighbourhood and especially after the embarrassment of operation silver shovel. This lot offered a chance for them. Mayor, Richard M, the so called renaissance, but so far down in North Lonsdale, not to offload unwanted trash and to build something New Northland like so many to, opportunities in this story. This one was also squandered. There have been several attempts to build on a slot over the past twenty years, but so far none have been successful and the law is still empty today and for men you have the Northland residence. I spoke to a prime piece of real estate. This big that is empty for this long indicates a larger problem. A kind of neglect and abandoned meant that began long before John Christopher brought the first truckloads of debris to the law
and whose continued long after what I want to see is like. I can't believe that this happens. In an american city, but the truth is, I can What an incredible and frustrating story Robin! Thank you so much for bring. It was thanks for having me I'll work, who did I been over here? Twenty toy safety is glad of memories. One day not too long ago, digging eagles took a walk in there, with a mountain home to the evil, rabbit to terrorize neighbourhood. Kids, taking in high school and clean up started. We must protect the world order, high heels down. That was all go to that's what we did. Thank you left to go away to college out of state and when he came back the hills and the mountain,
had disappeared label heels, go. Let's go back to me, Ben a kid and it took our heels away, but me growing into the man. I am now really I appreciate the wizard now is gorgeous flat, what I use them like before me, but it's still a vacant lot and the big picture, problems, greed and indifference that created the mouth are keeping the lot empty today thanks to rob unable for bringing us today, story and the rest of the crew of USA today is the city was sincere at any cost same Greenspan been asked in mad dog, my friend pop the city's, exactly Producer is less Nelson and Israel compose a rigid,
music for the city. You can find the city on Facebook and twitter at the city part and visit their website. The city park guess dotcom support for reveals provided by the Raven David Logan Foundation. The John Dene Catherine Team Car through Foundation, the Jonathan Logan, Fairly foundation, the Ford Foundation, the Housing Simons Foundation and the ethics and excellence in journalism foundation revealed is a co production of the centre for investigative reporting and p r eggs a malady and remember. There is always more to the store. These are last few shows of the year, and let me tell you in twenty twenty we are bringing the fire launching some of our most ambitious projects we ve ever done. I can wait for you to hear them reveal is all about going deep, pulling on threads
telling stories that matter and this kind of investigative journalism. Well, it takes time and it costs money. These are the final weeks bar end of the year membership campaign. We depend on listeners like you to help make this work possible to support us just text. The word reveal two hundred and forty seven, four thousand seven hundred and forty seven state of data rates apply and you can take stop or cancel at any time again. Just texted I'll, do for seven, four, seven, four, seven, let's go! Do some good work together.
Transcript generated on 2019-12-19.