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Monday, April 26, 2010


SALF whistleblower jailed on “eavesdropping” charge; $500,000 bond?

Posted by The Dean of Cincinnati

Photo of Annabel Melongo courtesy of here.

As Beacon readers may recall, in 2007 I was named as a defendant in a lawsuit filed by the Chicago-area Save-A-Life Foundation, a “shady nonprofit” according to this Democratic Party press release. Apparently SALF targeted me because the Beacon had been asking questions about their organization and its founder/president, Carol J. Spizzirri. My co-defendants included ABC-TV and Emmy-winning investigative reporter Chuck Goudie, who did four hard-hitting exposes that raised serious questions about the organization’s claims and its finances.

As reported by CityBeat, last July SALF dropped their specious case and a few months later the organization went belly up. Defunct or not, SALF’s at the center of another Illinois legal squall, but this one’s being played out in Cook County Criminal Court. A website called Illinois Corruption is tracking the case:

Annabel Melongo is a computer professional, born in Cameroon, who has lived and worked in the Chicago area since 2003. From December - April, 2006, she worked for the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), a nonprofit whose charter was to teach first aid to children in public schools.

Founded in 1993, SALF was a member organization of the Federal Emergency Management Agency and over the years received close to $9 million in federal and state funding. Since November 2006, SALF has been the subject of about a dozen news reports around the country that raise serious concerns about the organization’s claims, activities, and finances.

In October 2006, Annabel was charged with destroying SALF’s files, among them financial records. Those charges were entirely based on claims made by SALF’s founder/president Carol J. Spizzirri of Grayslake, IL. According to multiple news reports, Spizzirri has a history of serious fabrications, including the false claim that she is a Registered Nurse; that she worked as a renal transplant nurse in a Milwaukee hospital; and that she earned a BSN degree from a Wisconsin college whose name she misspelled on her CV. According to a recent sworn affidavit, in 1985 a Milwaukee court-ordered psychologist, Dr. Burton S. Silberglitt, diagnosed Spizzirri as “paranoid schizophrenic.”

A column last october by the late Gerald Bracey reported that Ms. Spizzirri is also a convicted shoplifter.

For a look at Spizzirri in action, here’s a clip of her freaking out and exiting mid-interview with ABC’s Chuck Goudie after he questioned her about claims on which she’d built her organization:

 

From the same broadcast:

 

According to state officials, the now-defunct Wisconsin college where Spizzirri claims to have received a nursing degree never awarded her a degree of any kind, and government records show she has never been registered as a nurse in either Wisconsin, as she told the I-Team she was, or in Illinois…Officials at the Milwaukee hospital where she claims to have been a transplant nurse say she had a paid job for a couple of years, as a patient care assistant akin to a candy striper.

 

Despite these contradictions, IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan & Cook County State’s Attorney Anita Alvarez (pictured above) launched the criminal case against Melongo based on Spizzirri’s claims and have been pursuing it vigorously ever since. Representing herself in the case (she recently secured counsel), Melongo has challenged them every step of the way.

On her website, Melongo claims she’s being railroaded and that her prosecution is a set-up designed “to cover-up SALF’s longstanding relationships with powerful political cronies and funders.”

Some of the officials with ties to SALF include - click the names for documents - IL Attorney General Lisa Madigan (whose office awarded a $25,000 contract to SALF, but now can’t produce any supporting records); her father Mike Madigan (the powerful IL Speaker of the House); US Senator Dick Durbin; Secretary of Education Arne Duncan; retired IL Senate president Emil Jones Jr. (Barack Obama’s political mentor); Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky; Congressmen John Shimkus, Mark Kirk, Tim Johnson, and others. Click here for a Flickr photostream showing Carol Spizzirri hobnobbing with political high-rollers like Senator John McCain, Rudi Giuliani, visiting the White House, etc.

In October the Chicago Tribune reported that over the years at least $8.6 million of public money was awarded to SALF. Questions have been asked about how the money was spent, but so far no public officials have called for an investigation. Instead, the State of Illinois seems to have made going after Melongo their priority.

Last week the writ hit the fan. Prosecutors tacked-on an “eavesdropping” felony charge because Melongo had uploaded recordings of a couple phone conversations on her website. Judge Mary Margaret Brosnahan then ordered Melongo to be jailed and set bail at $500,000. For over a week, Melongo (who says she has very little money) has been living in a cell in one of the country’s toughest jails. Courtesy of Judge Brosnahan, presumably that’s where she’ll stay until she comes up with 50 grand. These are not violent crimes and according to this blog written by a supporter, Melongo has no prior criminal record. Melongo’s attorney Nick Alburkerk told the Beacon, “I do think that bail for Ms. Melongo is excessive and I will be filing a motion to reconsider the amount of her bail.”

Interestingly, computers and files around Carol Spizzirri seem to have a way of going missing. In addition to her claims that SALF’s office computer files were destroyed by Melongo, last summer Spizzirri claimed her home computer was stolen by an ex-husband who divorced Spizzirri 30 years ago and lives in another state. The home computer theft accusation was just one of a string of outlandish allegations in a protective order she filed against the ex last year. That case was dispensed by a Lake County judge who listended to Spizzirri for just a few minutes, then swiftly dismissed her case.

For updates, keep reading the Beacon!

 


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  1. anon says:

    From: http://bit.ly/aTQcGo

    (Annabel) Melongo’s friends are asking for donations to Melongo’s legal defense fund. She has been unable to gain employment for several years due to the indictment hanging over her. She has very little assets. Her family is in France (mother-Haitian) and Cameroon and with modest assets. These donations are not tax deductible and can be sent to Melongo legal defense fund, J. Nicolas Albukerk, 111 East Wacker Drive, Suit 555, Chicago, IL 60601. For more information contact Albukerk at Albukerk & Associates 773 847-2600.

    Melongo is being held at the Cook County Department of Corrections, Division 4. Visiting day is Thursday from 9 am to 8:30 pm, enter through big white gate to guard house just south of 2650 S. California Ave in Chicago.

    The public can write her in English only at:

    Annabel Melongo
    inmate no. 2010-0414060
    PO Box 089002
    Chicago, IL 60608 USA

    You may NOT send her any gifts, but you can send her no more than 3 Soft cover books, magazines, and newspapers per mailing. She must buy stamps, paper, envelopes, underwear, socks, supplemental food from the jail commissary. If you want to donate her money send a money order to her in the jail, or donate to her legal defense fund.

  2. This organization can not win says:

    Please send even $5 to help out. This is terrible and if you think about it, these people could have taken out the Beacon.

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