Operation Silver Shovel | S1 E6


On the evening of October twenty. First nineteen ninety four. An Illinois state rep named Ray free us paid a visit to John Christopher's southside office the low slung unassuming brick building on west seventy. Fourth street was on a block that dead ended by some train tracks, making it an ideal location for a clandestine meeting. Neither one of us could stay long. He's got an award stew on. The meeting was captured on video and in it you can see Ray free us and John Christopher seated at a wooden table in the middle of a plain looking office with dingy, carpet and beige walls. The table is strewn with papers. There's a mini fridge and a rotating fan. Ray free us. Where's a dark suit and a patterned tie and sits with his hands folded in his lap John Christopher. Whereas a blue polo shirt and lights a cigarette, John Christopher speaks first. I do not be honest with you. I mean, this is all summer weekly from next year weekly prefer. John Christopher has called this meeting because he wants Ray free as his help getting one of his construction companies certified by the state and an exchange Christopher is willing to pay free us a consulting fee. She told me, I mean, what's worth you? I don't know. I mean, I can't one. What do you believe you could do to believe you could help me. What you're hearing is tape of John Christopher, trying to bribe a Chicago politician. Eventually they agree that five hundred dollars a week is a fair price for this exchange. Seal we start. Okay. And to give me a privates that has an efficient s as simple as that. Great. That's great. Okay. That's a consultant. Get in previous episodes. We've had actors dramatize John Christopher's time in court because all we had were transcripts, but this is actually John Christopher. This tape is real. This recording is one of more than a thousand audio and video tapes. John Christopher made in secret while he was working undercover for the FBI. And it's one of nine tapes that we got by suing the FBI earlier this year, it took us almost three years to get these tapes. And even though we only got nine, they provide a front row seat to how John Christopher operated as the FBI's prize informants back and John Christopher's office. He and Ray Frias had settled on five hundred dollars a week for this consulting fee. But then free gets nervous. I will stood up. Mobile right now also, I mean, this is. I mean, any kind of rain like this war over as alleged so too. To movie. Thank you. Alexis. That's why they want him out. Could can make moving Zico politicians when they don't think one. You just got to find the right roof as free as starts to come around. John Christopher pushes harder to seal the deal. The only reason why you're seeing here because you are seeing what's. Okay, because it can make one. The other one is for Zo. So if you feel uncomfortable, what are we clean? I said, the white way to you all. Thunder salt wrong with you because there's no politicians role that I know that go give me this on give you that. You give me this and I'll give you that. It's the transactional nature of Chicago politics. I give you a dollar. You vote for my candidate. You vote for my candidate. I give you a job as we previously learned from the story of north London, alderman Bill, Henry, it's the Chicago way. But in this case it's not business as usual. It's what the f. b. I would call a quid pro quo. That's this for that in Latin and it's a legal, you help my company get certified, and I'll give you five hundred dollars a week quid pro quo. After the FBI had busted John Christopher for Bank fraud for falsifying his loan applications and walking away with millions of dollars, he'd used to build up his businesses, the FBI flipped him convinced him to wear a wire and put him in the center of new investigation. So wearing a wire and acting on the FBI's behalf. John Christopher went looking for dirty politicians. He found many who were willing to conspire and some who are less. So almost all of his targets were black or Latino and came from segregated neighborhoods that industry had left the FBI called this new undercover investigation operation, silver shovel silver, like the forty pieces of silver Judah, Scott for betraying Jesus and shovel like the bulldozers at John Christopher's dumps the investigation was intended to tackle public. Corruption and would become one of the biggest corruption probes and Chicago history. But as it unfolded operation, silver shovel seemed to replicate the harm. John Christopher had caused in north Lonsdale and became a grab bag for anything. The f. b. FBI thought John Christopher could help them do. I'm Robin Aamer and from USA today, this is the city. If you like the city, you may like another show from USA today. The five things podcast covers the five most important stories of the day and why they matter in less than five minutes. New episodes are available every morning, Monday through Saturday, and you can subscribe to five things for free on apple podcasts or wherever you listen. Before we get back to the story. I wanna tell you about another podcast you might enjoy if you like the city. You might also like future. Perfect. A new podcast from vox future perfect explores provocative ideas that could radically improve the world in a time where the news has never felt more dire or distressing future. Perfect. Offers a window into a brighter more hopeful world. It's host. Dylan Matthews asks big questions. Like what career should I choose to do the most good? Or is it possible to make our prisons more humane? These questions don't have simple, yes or no answers, but they do kick off fascinating conversations. Listen to those conversations every Wednesday on future. Perfect. By vox you can find the show on apple podcasts or ever you're listening. Okay. Back to the story. In July nineteen Ninety-two FBI special agent, Jim Davis was put in charge of operation silver, shovel and assigned to be John Christopher's handler, he cents that this was going to be a big case. We told headquarters about, you know, the people that he had been paying recently who we thought he could pay in the near future. After John Christopher crossed over and started working for the FBI. He told the bureau about his bribes to former north Lonsdale alderman Bill Henry, you'll remember he was the Wheeler dealer who had reportedly given John Christopher permission to set up his rock-crushing operation in exchange for five thousand dollars a month. But the f. b. i. couldn't start with Bill Henry. And Jim Davis is kind of flippant about why I think he was dead before our k started. Otherwise, we'd have paid him instead. They started. With other officials. John Christopher claimed to be bribing. There was an alderman named Virgil Jones. A former cop in the mostly black fifteenth ward Virgil Jones had also given John Christopher permission to dump in his ward and exchange for a bribe ten dollars a load. Then there were high level officials from Chicago's water treatment agency. John was in the middle of a relationship to pay those guys for subcontracting work on a construction project that was going on, you know, at that time, but Jim Davis and his fellow FBI agents suspected that with an informant like John Christopher, they could find even more city officials to bribe ones. John Christopher had yet to meet the FBI needed to catch them misusing the power of their office to help John Christopher in exchange for money. They needed to establish a quid pro quo, and they had to get it on tape. John Christopher had a ton of credibility with other criminals. But Jim day. Davis knew that he would have zero credibility with a jury. John Christopher had an extensive criminal history Bank fraud trying to murder federal witness, and the f. b. I didn't want to risk putting him on the stand with the defense could play up his laundry list of past crimes. So every time John Christopher went out, Jim Davis wired him up to record his conversations. Technology for recording conversations was changing very quickly at that time. So we started out with a thing called in Nagara in a g. r. a. which was pretty good size like scary, big, real trail tape machine. It was a real real tape machine. Wow, so hiding that was difficult though. Jim Davis wouldn't tell me exactly where he hit the device. Don't want to go into that in understand why, right? I'm not trying. I'm not trying to be evasive or secretive or anything, but you know, I just don't want people. Dialed in art techniques. You wanna protect future investigations by protecting that information as they started to select their new targets. They came up with a plan that was supposed to meet specific legal requirements. We couldn't just kinda throw out net and in gather up these guys, we had to make sure that we had some Predication that they were involved in criminal activities. Predication means that there had to be some evidence that the person they were going after was already doing something illegal and thus might be willing to do more illegal stuff. Oftentimes that establish that through the politicians network. One alderman would introduce us to another to another to another. John Christopher may have disappeared from north Lonsdale, but you could find him dining with elected officials all over town. You could find John Christopher at the I hop at ninety four th in western, he'd be sitting across from alderman Virgil Jones who had given him permission to dump construction debris on the south side. The f. b. i. listened in as John Christopher gave Jones four thousand dollars wrapped in a newspaper. You could find John Christopher at Theodore's on ninety. Fifth street there he asked another southside alderman to send a city street sweeper to clean up the mess. He'd made a job site offered that alderman more than five thousand dollars in cash. And you could find John Christopher at Jack's a fancy English restaurant. Overlooking the magnificent mile shopping corridor there he gave a water Commissioner cigarette pack filled with forty rolled one hundred dollar bills. To aid this growing investigation, the f. b. i. brought in an undercover agent to act as John Christopher's business partner. Mark Sophia was a veteran f. b. i. agent from Chicago who was also Italian. Although he was more clean cut and well-spoken than John Christopher. The bureau thought that he could play a convincing mobbed up construction guy. He was often in the field with John Christopher when he bribed public officials during the investigation marks feel went by an alias Mark Delana. We wanted him to be Italian. I mean, marks Afia is Italian, but I haven't picking name that basically ends in all in. I didn't realize it until we had been in this for a while and I should. So where did you get to long ago to Lanka is not an Italian name. Mark was a West Point grid, and a ranger army ranger in the third phase of ranger training is based in. Delana Georgia and like his fake business partner. Mark Delana was also all over town meeting with a state rep at a diner near midway airport, where handed over the five hundred dollars. John Christopher had promised or hunkering down in an undercover apartment in suburban oakbrook terrace, where he'd sometimes pay bribes in his bathrobe and count out money on the coffee table. Shaved about to grad based on two leaks, so sure that would be one gram. So they're in this video recording Mark. Sofia as Mark Dhillon aga- is paying a southside alderman for helping John Christopher, clean up a parking lot repaving job. Or short, it's a little hard to hear, but that's Mark Sofia actually counting out money to give to the alderman. Okay, sir. The f. b. i. cast a wide net between the two of them. John Christopher and Mark Sofia eventually tried to woo and then bribe at least forty people. There were so many targets and each had his or her own story. But let's drill down into one of these officials to better understand how the investigation played out in practice and what it felt like to be caught in John Christopher's web. That's after the break. Do you wear clothes that don't fit? Are you listening to a podcast you hate probably not. You taken control of the rest of your life. It's time to take control of your sleep. Helixsleep Bill to quiz takes just two minutes to complete the use the answers to match your body type and sleep preferences to the perfect mattress. I was matched to the helix dusk. 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Giles and his wife police live in a tidy, split level ranch house on a quiet tree lined street in Chicago's south suburbs, very different from where he grew up in rural Arkansas. He was one of ten children and the son of a sharecropper. The family's home didn't have indoor plumbing until after he was ten years old Giles went on to study at the university of Arkansas. And then like so many other black Chicagoans. He left the south as part of the great migration and made his way to the west side. Giles would become part of a wave of young black politicians who came up under the city's first black mayor Harold Washington in nineteen six. When he was in his mid thirties, Giles was elected to city council. Even today, if you ask Percy Giles what accomplishment he's most proud of from his time in office, he'll tell you it was getting garbage out of his ward familiar with the west side. Chicago always got. Reputation of being not clean and and everybody looked down at the rest of the on the west side. But what determined right away is that the west, I wasn't treated fair. Percy Giles is ward the thirty seventh was and still is similar to north Llandough majority black, not a lot of clout with city hall and chronically underserved by the city. The same set of factors that had prompted north Lonsdale alderman Bill Henry to buy his own street sweeper. Percy Giles was first elected. The city had insisted the ten west side wards including his all, send their household garbage to a local incinerator. So the alleyways in his word became clogged with bulkier items, like couches or TV's that couldn't go to the incinerator and they let this other stuff. Just people put it out there to sit at just so the Senate claim that they were sent a bulk up there to pick it up later, but they've they didn't do that. Eventually Percy Giles convinced the city to let him send the words trash to another site and that got the garbage problem under control. If I have to say the one thing I did as alderman, that was the most significant thing I would say that would be it that changed the fiber of the west side. And yet Percy Giles was eventually taken down by an undercover investigation that started with a mountain of waste. By January nineteen. Ninety-five Percy Giles had already served to successful terms as alderman and was running for a third place to be. Look for ways to raise phones. Trials got a call from political consultant. He'd hired the consultant told him that he'd scheduled a lunch with possible donor named John Christopher. I got this. John Christopher. They said, you know, he can. He raise some money. A few days later Percy Giles and his political consultant meet with John Christopher for lunch at a west side, soul, food restaurant called edna's edna's advertised the best biscuits on earth and had a back room where VIP's could meet in private. The people. Here. What I should Percy Giles ordering the short ribs. He's really hard to hear in the tape because the tape recorder is across the table from him hidden somewhere on John Christopher's body. So when all of these recordings, John Christopher is much easier to hear. Hot dog that was Burke was polish sausage. Give me a hot one. On your guys neighbor, all. Go onto the Ryan. On just on the point John Christopher and Percy Giles finish ordering and start making small talk Giles asks how he's been doing and John Christopher lifts up his shirt. Allusion away from gaining weight what I'm doing. Go stay out of trouble while you know she'll want my wife or gain weight when I'm away from I lose weight. Hugh lift up his shirt. He grabs his belly and shakes it up and down FBI agent. Jim Davis would later tell me that when John Christopher did this lift up his shirt. It was his way of signalling to Percy Giles or anyone else around that. He was not wearing a wire though. Of course, the only reason we're hearing this is because he was. And as they're making small, talk talking about the upcoming mayoral election and who's ahead in polls, that kind of thing. John Christopher brings up his dumps in north London. Good news, dumping business. I don't do that little more. I don't wanna do it says to Christopher your known all over the city. In other words, you're infamous leave with head of my neetings with Henderson. Translation Percy Giles was heard about John Christopher and his construction. Debris dumps from Henry Henderson Commissioner of the city's department of environment and now for the first and maybe only time here is John Christopher on tape defending his actions in north Lauderdale. All of this fucking table. Table. I made a lot of money over Balza both saying they made a lot of money. You wanna know tensions want to hurt nobody. There created job Stor. Percy Giles seems sympathetic to John. Christopher Giles explains that he had been meeting with Henry Henderson because he's now facing a situation similar to the one in north Lonsdale he had thrown his support behind a company called Niagara that had promised to bring eighty jobs to his ward. Niagara then set up a construction, debris dump next to a beauty supply factory, the dirt and debris were now piled so high that runoff from the dump had flooded the factories parking lot Percy Giles was now taking heat from the factories owners and the city, and the press including a reporter from the sun times. Kim, you'd be. Playing to what it was she. And his political challenger in the upcoming election had also started using the dumps against him, putting up flyers around the ward that said, the dump was talk. Opponents shit bit. They can't do that them now of nothing. One on one. Plus they already put it out on in the community about tactic, mini minds and the toxic dump John Christopher offers Percy. Giles some words of wisdom are just gonna give picture right. Watch the heights of it will aunt you watch the heights of it. In other words, be careful how big the dump GATS especially when you're running for reelection under skewing. I feel that if you're going to be with somebody can Molly information, you could help them out later. And I was the first one basically that started all the dumps. You know the first. Question. So listen. Percy Giles. Let me save this with you. Okay. Give a Mason deal. The all get your running form. Okay. I want to months of court room battles. What sitting fro-. I started the can't want city. That could want you for years to come. You know this, Jesse won the election just lower Moshe. And you is a couple of people call up and saying that they got those problems. Jesse Miller who won Bill Henry seed after the former alderman supported John Christopher and the Northland l. dumb. Again, this is a warning learn from what happened in north Lauderdale for me. Would you take. In John Christopher's advice may have been offered one businessman to another, but he's here to do another kind of business. And all this small talk is probably just to establish trust because once they've built that report, Jon Christopher goes into dealmaking mode. I, he tells Percy Giles that he has a new construction company. We'll keep real small. John Christopher explains that on paper. His new construction company is run by a guy from north Lauderdale actually the same guy that he'd hired to do community relations in the neighborhood back when he was fighting the city's lawsuit. And because this guy is black and fronting as the official head of the company that makes them eligible for contracts set aside for minority owned businesses are not a while when he calls for the job. Anyone, anyone, if my name is much and pulls that radical stuff and says, what is this shit because of problems. Comes now, you know, I mean, he really fights. That's all very good tape. We wanted during these guys up. That's Jim Davis. John Christopher's f. b. i. handler, he was one of the first people to hear this tape after it was recorded this white Italian guy talking to a black elected official in saying a were taken advantage of the NBC certification. E stands for minority business enterprise. You know, by saying that we are a minority run business when in fact, look at me in to have those conversations in front of the alderman in have the alderman not say, hey, you know, you can't do that that paints the alderman in a certain light. After explaining that, he's basically set up a front company. John Christopher makes his pitch. He wants a contract for shopping center being built in Percy Giles ward. I won't where they work with number. You wanna say, I wanna the all in exchange for this help. John Christopher offers Percy Giles ten thousand dollars. What's going to happen basically. Effort to be given. Okay. Commitment of trying to get some workers that what we're saying here. And. Would you get the pain of the. Have somebody. I can't guaranteed. Nothing hundred can do all we can provide anything in a way that we can be assistant you. That's my call. Drought can to help. It's new. That's all that's needed. But John Christopher actually needed to get the payment on tape. So a few days after that first lunch, John Christopher and Percy Giles meet at edna's again. And this time John Christopher brings the money with him the first of two payments of five thousand dollars each. Now, what follows is really hard to hear because even John Christopher is speaking in hushed voice. He says to Percy Giles, here's the five thousand, it's all there. And then he asked Percy Giles if you want to count it. I can't believe you won't. If you've ever ripping put in your pocket. By John saying, please hurry up. Put that in your pocket. It dirties up more. You know you saying, you know, let's not make a big spectacle even though he is gonna make a big spectacle. Giles sounds giddy as he takes the cash. Member should move. This fucking. To be I agent, Jim Davis. This is a slam dunk. They have a sitting alderman on tape taking money from their informant, but that's not how Percy Gile side Giles admits taking the money, but swears that he believed it was a campaign contribution. It's why when he takes the money, he says, I'll win the election in African American minutest. It's difficult for us to raise money for elections, and that was like the best fundraising that I had and really did help me by material of real wood to ten thousand dollars mean to your campaign efforts at the time a lot. That was about a third of my campaign dollars. So this is a really big deal for you because you're running for re-election. You have a meeting with this guy that you think is a local businessman and he's affectively just given you in like to face to face meetings, a third of the money that you raise so far very election campaign that Nelson blessing Percy Giles says, he's still wilder as to why the f. b. i. chose him as a target. He argues that the f. b. i. turned an otherwise loyal public servant into a figure of corruption. The Cincinnati to meet the Mana fact a crime that they say that pro, whatever Lille put poll banana factor that the say, oh, we got him. He committed a crime. I wasn't doing anything to anybody, but taking my business, I would say that's fair. I make to me, you can do that with anybody. Now, granted him, some people smarter than me. They mo- politica stoop than me. They around families that who have been having business, they know how people are, but I came from a background. Nobody told me into this. I came from Arkansas, just Arkansas. The hospitality state we speak to everybody in Arkansas people. They pretty much say what they mean and they mean what they say, and that's that's where I come from. And so that was just shocked to me. Giles was eventually indicted and convicted, not just for taking ten thousand dollars in bribes from John Christopher, but also for taking eighty one thousand dollars in bribes from Niagara the company that set up the dump in his word when he talks about it. Now he says the money was for the ward and Niagara told him it would bring jobs Percy Giles would not be the last person to critique operation silver shovel or the last alderman to get caught up in the investigation in ways that mirrored John Christopher's time in Northland, Dale, that's after the break. Sometimes the smallest thing can make a big difference. Take your socks. For example, they might not seem like the most important thing in the world, but think for a moment about the last time you were a pair of socks that just weren't cutting it. An uncomfortable pair of socks can affect your whole day. That's why I love Bumba socks. They are truly the most quality made most comfortable socks I've ever worn one of my favorite things about Bomba is that just as they're making a difference in my day, I know they're making a difference in someone else's. See socks are the number one requested item in homeless shelters across the US. 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So we would have conversation where it was very clear that they wanted money from us and that they would do whatever we ask them to do. We just couldn't figure out what what it was that we could ask them to do that wouldn't create, you know, uncontrollable, third party liability. Third party liability means harm to anyone who is not a target of the investigation. For example, if they got a city contract, it meant that another legitimate business would not get that contract in some of the the rock crusher scenarios that we ran as part of this investigation. If we set up a rock crusher. In a neighborhood there was impact on the people around where the pressure was place. Some of the rock crusher scenarios, the FBI sent John Christopher to other aldermen to ask if he could set up other rock Crushers in other wards almost always majority black or Latino wards. But Jim Davis is careful to say that because of concerns about third party liability. The bureau never actually set up any rock Crushers anywhere. We never placed actually placed the rock crusher anywhere. Instead, Jim Davis says they would bring politicians to another rock crusher. John Christopher had this one also predated operation silver shovel and was out in Lamont in the western suburbs. Jim Davis called it a half million dollar prob. In other words, an expensive piece of equipment that was meant to be seen, but not used to the grocery opera. Out Lamont in, we would take alderman out to Lamont to see the crusher, right? So they could go out and see the thing in operation. And then once the alderman had seen the rock crusher, we identify a lot in their ward and say, this is where we wanna put it. We would get their support, pay them for their support, and then we'd never put the crusher there in practice. This was extremely confusing for the alderman. Here's what it looked like to Larry bloom, who is then alderman of the fifth ward. He told me that he needed some overflow space because the space that to which he was bringing the cement debris was he needed more space. And would I help them find such a space bloom was the only white politician caught up in the probe. He was known as an independent and a reformer. His southside ward concluded the integrated Hyde Park neighborhood home to the university of Chicago and the Obamas the word all. Also included a majority black neighborhood called grand crossing that had land zoned for industry. Larry bloom says, he, I met John Christopher a decade before when John Christopher was a client of fellow lawyer and his practice, they reconnected in the mid nineties when they ran into each other at the standard club, a fancy downtown members only club where bloom was meeting potential campaign donor. And I think I was putting my coat down and I see across the room, this big smile. Agai eyes get wide open and sees me and comes running over to me and says, how you doing Larry, it was John Christopher and later in his usual push way, he asked Larry bloom to find him a place to set up a rock crusher. So I actually did that and actually drove around. And I found a location that was in the new portion of my ward had known about which was separated. From the rest of the neighborhood by going underneath a tunnel, and then you went to this open area and it was basically a construction related company that used it for storing its vehicles. John Christopher paid, Larry bloom two thousand dollars for his help and after securing the site and supposedly setting up shop there, he came back to alderman bloom, and he said, Larry, I think I missing up the alley when I'm bringing this debris over to the site. Can you have the wards who pretend go out there and clean it up and after the wards Uber intendant checked out the site, he told bloom there's nothing there. No darts, no debris, no rock crusher. And yet John Christopher calls again and again asks Larry bloom to clean up the site, and he is really pushy. So Larry bloom goes and looks at it for himself. There was nothing they only and I think I looked into the yard and. I didn't see any debris in the industrial itself and see any of the stuff that he said he was bringing in this story basically confirms what Jim Davis told us that they never put a rock crusher anywhere, but from what we can tell from our reporting, that's not quite true. During his time as an FBI informant. John Christopher kept dumping at at least two sites, including the ones in north Lonsdale. He also set up at least one rock crusher in a place where there had not been won before John Christopher had been dumping in the fifteenth ward before he was recruited by the FBI. He had help from the alderman. We mentioned earlier, Virgil Jones, the former cop who took four thousand dollars wrapped in newspaper photos of that dump show something similar to what existed in Northland l. an enormous pile of concrete slabs stacked. What looks like two stories high according to court records. John Christopher kept dumping there after he became an FBI informant and in August nineteen Ninety-two one month after operation, silver shovel officially began. He put a rock crusher at the site, an operated it for at least a few months. After we learned about this rock crusher we went back to Jim Davis to ask if he'd been mistaken when he said they'd never actually put any rock rushers anywhere. He reiterated that as far as he could remember, they never had, but he did know about this one at least at one point. During Virgil, Jones's trial, Jim Davis testified under oath that he had gone to visit the site in the fall of nineteen ninety two and saw the crusher and operation. So it's not completely clear, but it seems as if John Christopher initially set up this rock crusher behind the FBI's back in a previous interview, Jim Davis told me that John Christopher would often do this kind of thing behind his back. Couple of times were I went down to to John's office which was down in the I think it was in the seventy six in western areas somewhere down there and walk around his yard. And I'd see some files a dirt building up, right? And I would tell him get rid of those. So that's what he has a tendency to do in. We had to go out there every once in a while, tell him you can't do that. You got to get this dirt your your lot. But that didn't mean the FBI didn't use the rock crusher to its advance. Edge. The payments may diverge Jones for helping with his operation were part of the FBI's case against him. We reached out to virtual Jones, but he never responded at this point. We should take stock of all the politicians targeted by operation silver, shovel Percy, Giles who's black fertile Jones, who's black Ray free s. Latino Jesse Evans black Allan. Streeter black. In fact, every public official indicted during operation. Silver shovel was black or Latino with the exception of Larry bloom who is white and Jewish. Jim Davis says, this disparity bothered him even at the time we were looking for opportunities to to try and branch out racially. But the issue was we could only go where the case took us. We could only go where our subjects were willing to introduces. You know, we, I remember one point having conversations about, you know, is there any way that we could get John say to Allan Streeter? Do you know any white politicians? We can pay? You know. We, we didn't do that just because it would have been ridiculous to do it. You know? I mean, it's not something it's not. It would not have been a conversation that I think would have worked in the enter cover scenario like then the question is will why would you ask me that? Like that's kind of a weird thing for you to ask me, right? That's the concern exactly. We went were the case took us. He says that the path the investigation talk is just evidence of the city's longstanding racial divides. The reality of Chicago is that black politicians Nobu politicians work with black politicians in the white politicians work with the white politicians. I've frankly think that you Kogyo is one of the most segregated cities in the country. You're not alone there. And I think that that's why this case seemed focused on black politicians. That segregation was driving. Actor here makes sense. It's the scaffolding on which you can hang almost every other fact about Chicago. The neighborhoods were John Christopher setup. His dumps and rock Crushers neighborhoods like north Lonsdale were black neighborhoods, but they were also neighborhoods that had gradually seen industry leave. They had a lot of vacant land and the land was not redeveloped quickly because it was not as valuable as land in wealthier white neighborhoods where developers were more interested in building, which meant that when John Christopher was looking around for places he could convincingly put a dump or rock crusher even fake one. He was almost certainly going to be looking in south and west side wards were land was cheap and plentiful, and set up for industry. There just aren't nearly as many undeveloped lots on the north side. So it wasn't just that there weren't any white politicians other than Larry bloom caught up in silver shovel. There weren't any north siders, either. There's one other dimension to this story. We have to talk about as operation silver shovel, broaden it got weirder. Apart from bribes for city contracts and rock Crushers. Silver shovel became a kind of kitchen sink for everything. The FBI thought John Christopher might be able to pull off that included fake legislation about cemeteries aimed to lure lawmakers at the state capital and a scheme that involved green card and the Royal Canadian Mounted police and a drug deal involving two pounds of cocaine and a money laundering operation for the mob. None of it had anything to do with north Lonsdale. The only things these parts of the investigation had in common was John Christopher just point. John is in a little bit of a state of denial. He wants for this investigation to go on forever because he, he knows when it's over. He's going to have to leave. He's going to have to tell his family that he was cooperating with the government. Eventually, this case would go public and John Christopher's targets would have their day in court, and then the FBI would have to contend with the reality of who John Christopher was and all the things done. I asked, Jim Davis, hell the bureau justified working with a man like John Christopher, and he told me something that he'd once heard a lawyer, say in court, something that had stuck with him. Sometimes if you're going to prosecute the devil, he got to go to hell to get your witnesses in January nineteen, Ninety-six operation. Silver shovel would break as front page news, Ray free us, the politician we heard at the beginning of this episode would be acquitted, but Virgil Jones and Percy Giles Alan, Streeter and Larry bloom a dozen. Other politicians were about to go down. That's next time on the city. The city is a production of USA today, and it's distributed in partnership with wondering, you can subscribe to the show on apple podcasts, Spotify, or wherever you're listening right now. If you liked the show please rate and review us, Andy short, tell your friends about us. Our show was reported and produced by Wilson Sayer Jenny Koss a knee, Robin, EMA. Our editor is Sam Greenspan Austin is our story consultant. Original music and mixing is by Hannah's Brown additional editing this week by Amy pile additional production by Taylor. Megan is about cockerel Phil Corbett and beyond. The media's Chris Davis is our VP for investigations. Spot Stein is our VP of product. Our executive producer is Liz Nelson. The USA today, networks, president and publisher is Mirabella Wadsworth. Thank you to our sponsors for supporting the show and special. Thanks to our turns Matt topic and Tom Curley. And immediately Yousef and Daniels fed cove. Additional support comes from the fund for investigative journalism and the social Justice news nexus, and Northwestern University. If you like this show, you may also like WBZ's new podcast on background, which takes you inside the smoke filled back rooms of Chicago, Illinois government to better understand the people places and forces shaping today's politics. I'm rob Aamer. You can find us on Facebook and Twitter at the city pod or visit our website where you can read transcripts of John Christopher's secret FBI tapes and war. That's the city podcast dot com.

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