In Cook County, Illinois, the Chicago Sun-Times
- A suspended Harvey police officer is among at least 8,171 Cook County property owners who wrongly received tax breaks over the past decade on homes they didn’t live in — costing more than $24 million, a burden other taxpayers had to make up.
Lemuel Askew — a Harvey cop for 30 years who’s awaiting trial on charges he bought stolen tools and other goods — is among the owners of 34,804 homes who got property-tax breaks they weren’t eligible for, records examined by the Chicago Sun-Times show.
Askew got homeowner exemptions on seven homes, the records show. Under Illinois law, those tax breaks — which knocks $7,000 off a home’s assessed value — are only for a single, owner-occupied residence.
Many of the homes that improperly received these tax breaks meant for people who live in their homes are instead rented out, the Sun-Times found — in some cases to tenants whose rent was covered by taxpayers through Section 8 federal housing vouchers for the poor.
Askew has been slapped with liens for taxes, penalties and interest totaling $122,413 on seven homes on which he received homestead exemptions for as long as seven years.
Five months ago, [Cook County Assessor Joseph] Berrios filed liens totaling $111,986 on seven south suburban homes owned by Robert E. Hall, a management consultant from Lincoln Park. Records show Hall received 48 illegal homeowner’s exemptions between 2009 and 2014 on homes he leases to tenants in Dolton, Hazel Crest and Riverdale.
“I had no clue this happened,” Hall says. “I paid my taxes. Then, last winter, I got these letters.”
Berrios’ office wrote to him, saying Hall needed to repay the tax breaks he’d received from homeowner’s exemptions, plus penalties and interest.
Hall says he couldn’t afford to pay. So the assessor put a lien on each of the seven homes.