New Cook Co. Recorder hires family friend with felony conviction - Fox 2 News Headlines

New Cook Co. Recorder hires family friend with felony conviction: EXCLUSIVE

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CHICAGO (FOX 32 News & Better Government Assoc.) -

You might think pleading guilty to a felony for helping stage an armored car robbery would be enough to disqualify you from public service, but apparently, not in Cook County.

SEE: Incoming Cook Co. Recorder under investigation

FOX 32 and the Better Government Association have learned that new Cook County Recorder of Deeds Karen Yarbrough gave a top job to Richella Goeloe-Jackson--a family friend with a felony conviction. Evidently, having clout can get you a sweet political job even after you've been found guilty of stealing more than $400,000.

After we starting asking questions, Goeloe-Jackson resigned from her $75,000-a-year job at the Cook County Recorder of Deeds office. As FOX 32's Dane Placko chased her under City Hall, she wasn't interested in answering how someone with her background can get a job at Cook County.

According to federal court documents, Goeloe-Jackson, her husband, and another man, staged a fake armored car robbery in south suburban Hazel Crest in 2009 that netted $407,000. The FBI quickly caught on, and in 2010 Goeloe-Jackson pled guilty to felony theft of bank funds.

Goeloe-Jackson was sentenced to two years of probation and ordered to pay a fine of $4,100, but according to her LinkedIn page, that crime didn't end her relationship with Karen Yarbrough. She worked in her district office when Yarbrough was a state representative, she worked for an insurance company once owned by Yarbrough, and last December, just after taking over as Cook County Recorder of Deeds, Yarbrough hired Goeloe-Jackson as her special assistant.

Yarbrough wouldn't talk to us on camera, but claims she had no idea about the felony conviction, which Goeloe-Jackson failed to disclose on her county job application.

"This is not our misstep. This is a misstep unfortunately of Miss Jackson for not fully revealing when she got employed here of her entire background," Chief Deputy Recorder Bill Velazquez says. "And once we were made fully aware of all of her background, it was decided it would be the best thing for her to resign."

FOX 32 and the Better Government Association have also learned that Goeloe-Jackson is living in a Maywood home owned by Yarbrough and her husband, which means Yarbrough gave a county job to her tenant.

Furthermore, election records show in late 2011 Yarbrough used her political campaign fund to pay Goeloe-Jackson thousands of dollars for cleaning her district office months and even years earlier. Yarbrough says the work was legitimate.

"She's employed her for years. She's given her a place to live. She's paid her out of her campaign funds," says Bob Herguth of the BGA. "And for Karen to say she doesn't understand, doesn't know what's going on in this situation is almost beyond belief. Do you think there's anybody else in the Chicago region who is perhaps maybe qualified for this and would want this?"

Yarbrough, who says she didn't know about the felony conviction, even wrote a letter of support for Goeloe-Jackson at her sentencing, calling her a "woman of great integrity."

Jackson was able to land the taxpayer-funded job even though she is not a U.S. citizen, however, she is the country legally.

Amazingly, the Recorder of Deeds office does not do background checks on new employees.

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