Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter
About five years ago, Chicago ABC7 I-Team reporter Chuck Goudie, in a series of investigative reports, exposed the questionable veracity of the founder of the Save A Life Foundation (SALF) and the organization’s claimed achievements. Here is the first of Goudie’s reports.
That was the beginning of the end for the “charity” founded in 1993. During its lifetime, the SALF received millions of dollars ($7,856,869 to be exact) in federal ($2.6 million alone from the Centers for Disease Control) and state grants from several Illinois agencies.
SALF lived off the state and federal largess by enjoying the advocacy of a host of state and federal officials, including, but not limited to, Arne Duncan, who ran the Chicago Public Schools then and is now the Secretary of Education, Illinois State Democrat Senators Emil Jones and Donnie Trotter, plus U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D), and U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D) – a very active promoter for SALF.
It wasn’t all Democrats, though, who hyped SALF. Former Senator Norm Coleman (R. MN) tried, but failed, to get millions more for SALF from the federal treasury. And, current Illinois Republican Senator Mark Kirk openly supported SALF and once accepted an award from the “charity”. But the majority of the pols promoting SALF were Democrats.
About three years after Chuck Goudie poked a hole in the SALF balloon, it closed up shop in 2009. But that’s not the end of the story.
A writer for the conservative website, American Thinker, gathered all the Illinois Form 990’s – the annual forms that all charities are required to submit reporting their receipts to the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. When the grant monies that SALF reported having received over the years were compared to what the various granting agencies reported they’d given SALF over those same years, there was a discrepancy. SALF had not accounted for having received $853,709. Oops!
In July 2010, this discrepancy was brought to the attention of Attorney General Lisa Madigan’s office – where apparently math is not a strong suit since they never noticed the discrepancy – and the AG’s Charitable Trust Bureau, the department responsible for monitoring Illinois charities, allegedly began an investigation of SALF’s finances.
It’s been nearly a year-and-a-half now, and the “investigation” is still…“open.” Of course, “open” doesn’t necessarily mean being pursued. In only means…not closed. It could stay open for…well, indefinitely. That would be The Chicago Way.
So what happened to the missing money? Can we say – Illinois Pay-to-Play?
Thomas Barton, Illinois Pay-to-Play Political Commentator
Annabel Melongo has been locked-up in the Crook County Jail since April 10, 2010. Yet, she’s been convicted of no crime. Her bail, originally set at $500,000 (!), is now $300,000.
Annabel’s a single, legal immigrant from Cameroon. She has no family here. She can’t make bail.
Melongo’s a political prisoner.
Her story, and the saga of the now-defunct Save A Life Foundation (SALF) where she was once employed as a computer specialist, has been covered by several new media outlets including the American Thinker, Andrew Breitbart’s Big Government and Big Journalism, the Cincinnatibeacon.com and the Chicago Daily Observer.
Melon-go’s problems with the Cook County State’s Attorney began back in 2006. The Cincinnati Beacon summarized the beginning of her ordeal.
“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.’”
SALF collapsed in 2009. Spizzirri moved to California. And, after being made aware that the organization failed to account for $853,709 in state and federal (CDC) grant money, the granting of which was facilitated by several Illinois politicians – mostly Democrats – the Illinois Attorney General’s Office is supposedly investigating the organization’s finances. Raise your hand if you believe there’s a real investigation underway.
The missing money is approximately 10% of government monies received by SALF during its lifetime. Can we say Pay to Play?
Melongo was originally arrested on a complaint from Spizzirri that Melongo corrupted the organization’s computer records from off-site, after she’d been fired. Those charges have been put in legal limbo. Then she was arrested for audio-taping two brief innocuous, procedural conversations with a court clerk pertaining to questions she had about her case, and for posting those conversations on her website. Not smart, for sure. Annabel went to trial and the result was a hung jury. The Cook County States Attorney’s Office has decided to go to a re-trial on those charges. Why would they do that ?
Meanwhile, she’s been sitting in the Crook County Jail now for over 18 months.
The mainstream Chicago media isn’t interested in her story.
In July 2010, a writer of the aforementioned Big Journalism article reported this comment from a Sun Times investigative reporter.
“‘My bosses aren’t interested in tackling the story [of Melongo].’ That’s what a top investigative reporter at a major Chicago newspaper said when I asked why the story of Annabel Melongo – former Save A Life Foundation employee – wasn’t being covered. ‘We’d have to spend a lot of time to get it right.’ The reporter explained how, with a limited staff of investigative reporters tasked to write one ‘investigative story’ each week, there aren’t enough resources to focus on the Melongo case.”
Of course they aren’t interested in Melongo’s story. Just too many well-connected Chicago area pols were associated with the SALF.
Meanwhile, Joseph Cari was sentenced to three years probation for attempting to extort millions from a state pension fund for school teachers. Go figure.
According to the on-line Crook County Jail’s Inmate Report, Melongo comes before a judge again on October 25. Stand-by.