Mt. Vernon Register-News

February 28, 2013

Woman pleads guilty to fraud in nursing grants

Associated Press


SPRINGFIELD (AP) — A former executive of the Chicago chapter of the National Black Nurses Association on Wednesday pleaded guilty to mail fraud and money laundering charges.

Margaret A. Davis, 62, admitted to defrauding state grant programs of more than $1 million from 2005 to 2009.

The money from the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, Department of Public Health, Department of Human Services, and the State Board of Education was to be used for health care advocacy-related and nursing student assistance programs.

Instead, Davis admitted that she, with the help of former chapter treasurer Tonja Cook, 45, converted a great deal of the money to her personal use and to family members, friends and associates. Money also went to the not-for-profit African American Aids Network, which Davis controlled, and to Cook for personal use.

The plea agreement calls for Davis to serve no more than 41 months in prison. U.S. District Judge Sue E. Myerscough scheduled sentencing for July 22.

On Nov. 26, Cook pleaded guilty to mail fraud. She remains free on bond pending sentencing.

The charges against Davis and Cook stemmed from a federal grand jury inquiry into how state money was handed out to dozens of groups, some of which were linked to former state Sen. Rickey Hendon.

Subpoenas issued in August 2010 from U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office went to five state agencies seeking copies of contracts and other records related to nearly 50 not-for-profit agencies and more than a dozen individuals.

A number of the agencies said they received grants with the assistance of then-state Sen. Hendon. Several of the individuals also had ties to Hendon. Early this year, Hendon, a Chicago Democrat, resigned from the Legislature, though he did not explain why.

Hendon was not named in the subpoenas and is not accused of wrongdoing.