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The City Revealed (Rebroadcast)
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Seven four seven. Thank you. And let's do some good together because there is always more to the story, but it can't be told without you. From the center for investigative reporting in P R, x this is reveal amount. Letting. Daiki Nichols was a kid growing up in Chicago in the early nineties, he knew that lurking near his home was an evil rabbit, the evil rabbit of the grow rabid, use the chase key with Red Eye. There remember that we will looking for what day. But we'd never see that evil rabbit. This evil rabbit roam the hills where Daiki and his friends like to play. We played up there. Everything played Haggos seeing when his snow, we is layers and slat down the summertime. Roger bites up and down the hill, because there was that big of a hill that was fun. They can look down onto the roof of their elementary school. All the basketball's gotten stuck up there over the years, and they could look east towards the horizon and see all the skyscrapers downtown. Now Chicago's built on prairie land. It's pretty flat. So you might be wondering about those hills and how they came to be just six miles from downtown in the west side, neighborhood of Northland deal. There's an explanation Daiki remembers one time in the fourth or fifth grade. He was running up the side of the tallest hills. A mountain on those and its foot dislodge something something big boulder, or piece of concrete. It roll down the mountain towards his brother. I mean rolled over his finger and it was hanging off. I had to hold it together and I had the walk him all in his finger on until we got to the hospital. They hit the reattaching ESPN about two or three days in a hospital. The mountain was actually a giant illegal landfill in a vacant lot, besides grass and wildflowers and even trees, there were six stories of concrete and rebar, plus rusted out. Cars and old matches that the kids used for trampolines today. We're going to tell you how that landfill came to be north Lauderdale and grew to be six store stall, two whole city blocks, wide, and five city blocks long. Now imagine living right next door. This is a story about the strange complicated and crooked ways that power flows in American cities. USA today investigated this gigantic landfill in their podcast series. Call the city I ran it in December of twenty teen and Robin Aamer host and creator of the city told us the story. Hi, al. Right. So we're talking about a dump that is six stories high in Chicago. Yeah. That's right. Six stories, tall, and it was on this huge lot twenty one acres. The size of thirteen football fields. The story of how this huge dump came to be in the middle of a residential neighborhood is one of the most striking stories of corruption and institutional indifference that I've ever come across. It stunned me when I first found out about it about a ruthless. This city can be about how stark the divisions are between black and white rich and poor between the people who hoard power, and the people who have to fight for their fair share. There's one man at the center of the story who sets everything into motion. Here he is. Or all boys at the table on the table. I was the first one basically that started all dumps the I will I made a lot of money over there. No balls about saying it made a lot of money. And you wanna know some started can't warmth city that could haunt you for years to come. This guy sounds like a character straight out of goodfellas. Yeah. He's pretty unapologetic. The can of worms he opened unleashed this chain of events that went way beyond Chicago, eventually, the FBI would be giving him cover as he built the dump. He's not at the very beginning of the story and what we're definitely going to get back to him later. But why don't we rewind a little bit and take it from the very beginning. Richard. I'm being his inaugural address, live on WB AM from office. In the months to come. Richard m Daley was the son of the beloved and feared mayor Richard J Daley. He presided over Chicago's political mission from the nineteen fifties through the seventies, his son was sworn into office in nineteen Eighty-nine time can leave behind. Time can leave behind all setbacks, disappointments and battles because in the campaign for a better Chicago for all allies, since the nineteen sixties steel mills and other factories had been shutting down all over the midwest. In Chicago, the city lost hundreds of thousands of jobs and nearly a million residents and the new mayor Daley wanted Chicago to, you know, wake up from this post industrial slumber and thrive. As one city or we sit back in watch Chicago decline. So daily began a major push to revamp, Chicago's aging downtown, and he paid special attention to tourist friendly destinations in the loop and along the lakefront. He said about rebuilding crucial parts of the city's infrastructure, including its roads and highways by the spring of nineteen ninety the year after he took office. The city was full of workers and hard hats, and orange vasts breaking down concrete, Jack hammering asphalt loading into dump trucks and hauling it away law abiding, trucking companies card, this debris to distant landfill. But some trucks headed west out of the loop over the Chicago river into the city's neighborhoods until the came to a vacant lot in north Lauderdale. When I visited there a met a woman named Gladys Woodson, she lived in the neighborhood since moving to Chicago from Mississippi in the nineteen sixties, and she told me, how one day in the spring of nineteen ninety a neighbor knocked on her front door. First memory was the president of the forty one hundred block came down, and s miss Whitson and told him what do you want would miss Woodson was the president of the forty three hundred block together? These block clubs kept an eye on the street and made sure the community was safe. He said, did you not know that is a dunk illegal dump over cross the street? And I know he's come on this work done. Yeah. I saw a lot of trucks land blocking the view and Behan trip. There was pal stuff that was accumulated. And so when you saw this line of trucks, and this pile of rubble would as you think I think, oh, no, we can't have over here. This is bad health. If children Beth house, it's just gonna take on neighborhood down. They couldn't figure out who was responsible for all the trucks coming and unloaded rubble in their neighborhood. So they held stakeouts and saw that the trucks kept coming by day, but also in the dead of night. We have come. I hand like one two o'clock at night to wash the trucks go in and take down license. Plates number. One and two o'clock in the morning. In the morning, and we used to meet them up here because we figured if we can get the license plate number we can turn them over to the police. So what we did we start getting license plate number, and what we found he had one set a plate on the front and on different set of plate on the bet. It seemed really suspicious. And that was before they saw the man in charge, then, anytime you see anybody drive over a vacant lot in limbo. You know, is no good. Gosh. What did you think was happening back there when you saw him drive up in a limo out? He was. I don't know game bangel with something other, you know. You know, I didn't know what to think. The man in the limo was a heavy set white guy with a gruff voice and receding hairline eventually MS Woodson, and her neighbors would learn the man's name John Christopher and that he was connected to the mob. What in Chicago, we call the outfit, but that was later. In the meantime, over the next days and weeks, the piles of rubble have getting taller and taller, and the dust blowing off them got worse and worse Woodson and her fellow block club. Captains organized a letter writing campaign. We the south with London. United block club councils are requesting that you into intercede of in protesting the installation they sent a letter to the zoning board and the water department and the department of streets in sanitation. They sent it to the mayor and a member of congress. We rotate. Body, from who's who to who's that I thought most, we can take all of these peoples, and they found out, what was going on that somebody would stop it. Ms Woodson was right. At least at first in June of nineteen ninety about a month after receiving her letters, the city finally sent an inspector to check out the dump by then it was already taller than you are. I as the inspector put it more than six feet tall, Henry Henderson was a lawyer for the city, who specialized in environmental issues. People who were working, as inspectors in the city called me up and said, we've got this huge amount of material building up in this particular side. So we got in cars and went out to visit. And it was this, this gigantic gigantic issue, Henry Henderson had learned. But John Christopher the guy Woodson saw in the limo was actually running the dumps to he called Christopher into his office for a meeting was that the first time that you had not with him. Yes. What did he look like how did he speak? What impression did he leave on you? He's a very, very large person. He had one of these incredibly colorful sweaters on, you know, well, like dad's wetter kinda like that. Yeah. And I was struck by the fact that it looked like he had his nails done going into this meeting, hundreds, and thought that he could demand that John. Christopher stop and that he would. But John Christopher had permits that he'd gotten from the city to operate a rock crusher. A giant machine that pulverizes concrete into gravel which can then be sold back to construction companies to use in their building projects. So is his story about what he was doing is particularly aiming at this is construction debris that can be recycled and I wanna crush it and the material has value. So I'm recycler, and I'm gonna beautify that was his claim as to what, what is actively whereabout, John Christopher was not going to stop dumping in north Mondale? And every day the prairie wind would blow through the piles of debris and cover north Lonsdale in a layer of thick grey dust when the dust will fly, you had a look gloss on your lip gloss will be full of dirt. You could taste it on your lips in your mouth. This is Michelle Ashford in nineteen ninety she was nineteen years old. It will be just a big cushion win. We will have the closure as covering the mouth or whatever. Because once we experienced it we knew. Become the win. We will cover up for when going on mouth. Some meals that it did. Michelle's mother Rita Ashford says the dump may the neighborhoods prostitution problems worse. The guys they could come pull up on the side of the dump. And that's where they did their business at just to be clear. The dump had gotten so big that it cast the side street next to it into darkness with the prostitutes being able to go back there really like high, and it would be down there, turning dates, and everything, right there on the street. The dump had become a magnet, that's actually a term in environmental circles. It was a magnet in that it had attracted other illegal and unsavory stuff and the rats girl, if it wasn't a hundred red sent one, one people were fighting rents. They were getting their homes. I mean some of the vinyl houses on our block. Everybody was dental with rents. But worse than the rats the dump was affecting people's health. Several of MS Ashford's grandchildren had severe asthma and some of his Woodson's elderly neighbors relied on oxygen tanks, the dust from the dumps was making it harder for them to breathe some Woodson and her neighbors decided to confront the dumper, so group of we won't dove it talk to John Christopher and we asked him, you know, could he stop whatever he was doing over there. He told us he could do whatever he, please. And we told him, okay, we'll go to court and he said, if you do go to court when I leave him Aleve, everything just like it is now he was very Erickson. So how did you feel after that confrontation? Let's get him. Let's go to court. And so they did with Henry Henderson's help the city sued. John Christopher in June of nine. Thousand ninety. The story of a mountain in Chicago neighborhood converges with a federal probe was sacred undercover investigation. And so we weren't going to and and there's a takedown teams at wrote to search warrants than accident. Do I need a lawyer, and they told me you might remote, my knees just fell London me? I almost fell to the floor coming up next operation silver shovel. This is reveal from the center for investigative reporting and. P. R X. From the center for investigative reporting in PR X vis is reveal. I'm listen today. We've been talking about a mountain of trouble in Chicago neighborhood. A mountain made up of construction debris greed and deception that six stories, high, and five blocks long, Robin Aamer of USA, today's podcast called the city has been telling us a story, so Robin catch sup little bit. We've got a neighborhood. That's getting tons of construction debris from all over Chicago dumped on them, and they're having trouble getting their voices heard downtown now from what I know about Chicago, politics, when you can't get your trash picked up or your potholes filled. The person you call is your alderman, your neighborhood Representative on the city council was he able to help them. So Bill, Henry was the alderman of the twenty fourth ward which included north Lonsdale and Gladys Woodson's block club wrote to him when they were trying to get rid of the dump to be a hindrance because he was a street person. You know, it was raise the phone. The street. He will let us all know you know, you can't have everything you want. And if you won't something really bad, you figure out how bet you won't that. And you're gonna have to give up something to get something. Bill. Henry was first elected alderman, in nineteen eighty three and he did what alderman often did to build support. They handed out favors like city jobs and contracts. But he was also known as a dealmaker. In fact, he was reportedly, the one who introduced John Christopher to the owner of the vacant lot, where the dump was and leader, people would learn that he had also taken bribes from John Christopher like five thousand dollars a month to ensure that the city didn't interfere with the dumping operation. So the dump took on a nickname. This is Bill Henry son Conrad we was in the car was driving past. And he said, they call that mount Henry, it was not smiling. He was quite subdued about quite sad about a lot of ways. He was like mass nothing. I can do about it. He like he'd been duped like he'd been used to dunk that they're after the dumping started. Bill, Henry was indicted on unrelated federal corruption. Charges. He washed his bid for reelection. He developed lung cancer and died the following year. His case never went to trial. By nineteen Ninety-two. John Christopher had dumped more than thirty one thousand truckloads of stuff in north London. The city had taken him to court and the judge didn't buy his claim that he was some kind of recycler. So John Christopher lost the case. The judge gave him thirty months to clean up the site. But that meant the north Lonzo residents would have to keep living next to the dump for at least two and a half. More years. But rather than cleanup the site. John Christopher disappeared. So the city appealed to the state and federal environmental protection agency's finally, in nineteen ninety four four years after the dumping started. They came out to north Mondale, but they only removed about one hundred and fifty truckloads of stuff. They determined were hazardous, like barrels of chemicals. They left the thirty one thousand truckloads of construction debris behind the six-storey mountain was still there. So that's it. Then I mean and the story, they're just stuck with this mountain. Well, no, not exactly. This is where the story. Takes a really crazy. Turn what happened to John Christopher after John Christopher disappeared. Henry Henderson, who is now the city's environmental Commissioner reached out to one other federal agency that he thought could help in the situation. See because he had a personal connection at the US Justice department to an old friend and he was first assistant that the time Henderson called on Scotland's, our first assistant US attorney in the northern district of Illinois. In other words, Lazar was one of the federal government's top criminal prosecutors in Chicago. So Henry Henderson talks to Scotland, you're, so you know, we're having real hard time and we think that this is a larger criminal endeavor here, and we've really need some help, but Henderson says his old. Friend dismissed him telling him this was a municipal waste problem. I asked Scotla are about this conversation. We knew about the legal dumping going on very well. Probably couldn't tell that Christopher was working undercover at the time. This was sacred undercover investigation. And so we weren't going to. And so I had to rebuff him, wait. Hold on Robin. Do you mean yet? John Christopher was working undercover for the FBI ways. John Christopher who started this illegal dump is actually working for the United States government. Yeah. That's right. How did that happen? All right. So it all started with this investigation into a Bank failure. This local Bank in Chicago went belly-up in nineteen Ninety-one and an FBI special agent named Tony Dangelo started looking at the bad loans. The Bank had made he was an expert in white collar crime, and organized crime. And he discovered that the biggest bad loan spank had made had gone to one man. John Christopher Mr. Christopher had a couple of trucking companies some other businesses, and he had borrowed. I can't remember these act amount. But I believe the total deficit, the Bank was in the millions two point five million. That's what John Christopher would later say, in court through these companies, he borrowed money and was not paying the loans back on time. And they had to ultimately be written off. Tony Dangelo looked up. John Christopher in the FBI's database and learned that he had a prison record and mob ties so Dangelo calls, John Christopher thinking, he can help the FBI boss to the higher ups at the Bank. So I told him I was, you know, I looked at your dealings with cosmopolitan Bank. I've got you dead to right on financial fraud with your loan application, and I found in my career that people. Are very curious. They wanna know what information you have about them. What evidence also mentioned to him know, I know you just gotta jail. You got a couple of kids may, we can help each other. They arranged to meet at a Pizza Hut. I mean, if you wanna know a mob, up guy, take a picture. John Christopher built like a bull about five ten stocky wearing a member's only jacket toxin Dem's and does, and just just a funny guy. I laid out my case against him. I'm fellow talion. You can just listen to me talk. They start meeting regularly and one day during ways meanings. He goes, oh, are you interested in politicians? It's an absolutely what do you have on politicians? Well, little, I know at the time that John Christopher Ben bribing and paying off and every new do with aldermen and various city officials. John Christopher turned out to be a bribing machine. He told the FBI about bribing Bill Henry, the Northland alderman and other Chicago alderman and city inspectors. Keep in bribing public officials his whole adult life. The FBI knew about John Christopher's mob connections and criminal past. Plus, he's what the mob would call a standup guy. He went to prison once and didn't give anyone up guy like him actually talking to the FBI and telling them about his legal activity was incredibly rare. So it occurred to the FBI that he would be the perfect mole. John Christopher was the kind of guy, you'd never suspect of working with the FBI, but it also come out of prison, feeling like the mob, hadn't taken good care of his family while he was away. And so Jon Christopher agreed to wear a wire to cooperate with the FBI to strap tape-recorded to his body and go looking for dirty politicians to bribe the FBI called it operation silver shovel like the thirty pieces of silver Judah Scott for betraying. Jesus like. The bulldozers at John Christopher's dump. He was from here. On what you're hearing are secret recordings John Christopher made, while working for the FBI. I assumed the FBI to get them in this one. It's January nineteen ninety-five. And John Christopher is sitting down to lunch with Chicago alderman, there at a west side soul food restaurant called edna's. That's alderman. Percy Giles ordering the short ribs. He's really hard to hear in this tape because the tape recorder is across the table from him hidden somewhere on John Christopher's body. She'd saw hot dog that was burnt was in polish it. Give me a hard link. Way. Sean Christopher tells the alderman that he has a construction firm small work company in here, Wilkie real small, and John Christopher explains that he wants a contract for a shopping center being built in Percy Giles as ward escalating work at a competitive number. Okay. Any offers Percy Giles ten thousand dollars to guarantee that he gets it. You're going to go what's going to happen, every basically for to be given. Okay. Amendment of trying to get some workers that what we're saying here. Okay. You know what I'm saying? Yeah. John Christopher needs to get the payment on tape. So a few days after that, first one, John Christopher and Percy Giles meet at edna's again. And this time, John Christopher brings the money with him. The first of two Caymans of five thousand dollars each. Jober don't more. Komen. He says to Percy Giles, here's the five thousand it's all there and Giles takes the money. Them put their pocket. The F B I had recruited John Christopher to catch the kind of crooked politicians who let him dump in north Lauderdale, John Christopher found many of them willing, but others less. So here's a tape, he made of a conversation with an Illinois lawmaker named Ray free s. Spilled up. I'm gonna love. Tentative right now also this. I never made any kind of rain like this before, of legislator, John Christopher tries to put him at ease. He basically says, all politicians, take money. You're watching the movie. Thank you. Life's just that's right. Can't make the politicians when you think they get elected. And they don't think Honey. You just got to find the right group. operation silver shovel lasted for three and a half years. Although it started with public eruption, it eventually brought in to include things that had nothing to do with politicians. Let alone the north Lonsdale dumps John Christopher helped the F. B I catch people laundering old mob cash. They even folded in a drug bust along the way. And so in January nineteen ninety six it was finally time for the feds to stage what they called the take down. We set up kind of a command post special agent, Jim Davis was in charge, and from the command post, we issued a execute order. We told him to go to same time, and then we just waited for results more than one hundred federal agents fanned out across the city. The command post was in the federal building downtown. Jim Davis was stationed there with four or five other agents to help man the phones and manage the teams in the field. We have teams that wrote to search warrants, but the most focus was on the actual interview teams guys were going out interviewing subjects the agents interrogated more than forty targets, including seven Chicago alderman, three officials from the water treatment agency and to city inspectors. They questioned everyone at the exact same time that way. No one target could worn any other target to hush up or destroy evidence or get a lawyer. Percy Giles was in his west side, office when the FBI showed up he's the alderman, who met John Christopher EDNA soul food restaurant, and the X me on. No Don Christopher. I I'm told him note because it didn't done on me then later, I do know by them lying about their relationship with John Christopher would show that they know that there's some reason for them to lie about that relationship shows that they have some understanding that it is a corrupt relationship. I'm accident. Do I need a lawyer? And they told me you might when I went home that night. And I remember I was nervous so nervous when I telling my wife about it. I remember my knees just fell. Monday me, I almost fell to the floor, Percy Giles was afraid, but he didn't think he'd done anything wrong, but other aldermen came clean. We hit multiple confessions came that were being reported back to us in the command post, which was really surprising. We didn't expect it, and I. That these guys were so stunned to learn that John was working with us that they just figured they had nowhere to go and alderman named Ambrosi Oma drano had taken thirty one thousand dollars in bribes from John Christopher in exchange for helping him with his dumping operations in interviews, after the takedown, Madonna had trouble explaining to the press why he'd succumb to John Christopher's. Charms, you know, I don't think that whenever anybody does anything wrong. The really know why I don't know the honest with that was move operate. It was yes, he was, I can't tell you that from the initial meeting that I had with him, and the first time that I actually met with him and accepted the money had been several months. I mean he had. Called him badgered me calls me and asks asked me to meet with him. I refused the Y I finally gave in. I don't know. That was the mistake. I mean, I did I accept total responsibility for what I did alderman, drano, pled guilty and went to prison for thirty months when he got out here in for office again. But ended up going back to prison a second time on new corruption charges. Over three years. Federal prosecutors indicted a dozen Chicago officials caught up in operation silver shovel, almost all pled guilty or were convicted of corruption, the only politician who was acquitted of all charges was Ray free ass-, the reluctant sounding state legislator, who'd never made an arrangement like that before alderman Percy Giles says he still bewildered as to why the F B I chose him as a target. He argues that the FBI turned, and otherwise loyal public servant into a figure of corruption undis- mine in my business running my war. They send somebody to me, and give me some phony money to manufacture a crime. Then they say, oh, we got him. He committed a trying to me they can do that with anybody they want. I think that was totally unfair. With operation silver shovel over and done with what happened, John Christopher's, vacant lot. I don't think that we had any obligation to clean up Henry, because first of all, it's not what we do. And we didn't create it. That's next on reveal. From the center for investigative reporting in p r x this is reveal. I'm outlet. We've been hearing about a major FBI investigation in Chicago in the mid nineties caused the stirred nationwide in Chicago today. Federal officials announced charges in what they call operation silver shovel a wide ranging probe of public corruption. Operation silver shovel lasted three and a half years that the heart of it all was John, Christopher a man with an extensive criminal record, a man who are working as an FBI informant them, six stories of construction debris in the west side neighborhood of north longdale residents there called the large and unsightly dumpsite, the mountain, and they accused the federal government of allowing Christopher to continue dumping and poor and minority neighborhoods while using him to target public officials US attorney burns tonight is the charge, rob Amer's been our guide and telling this story she's the host of the podcast from. USA today called the city and it looks at how power is wielded in American cities, a Robin Hayao. So I guess the feds were happy with how operation silver shovel went down. Oh, yeah. Absolutely. I mean, by the time this wrapped up the feds would refer to operation silver shovel as one of the biggest and most successful corruption probes in Chicago history. They had investigated more than forty targets indicted a dozen politicians on corruption charges. Most of whom went to prison and they had also used John Christopher to launder millions of dollars in old mob, cash really hitting the outfit. The Chicago mafia where it hurt and even folded in a drug bust along the way. So this investigation was by their account very successful. What about the people of Chicago where they happy to see all these politicians get jail time. Yes. And no. The investigation did not play out in Chicago's neighborhoods. The way it played out on the nightly news. I almost all the targets of this. Instigation were black or Latino. There was a lot of criticism abyss and the government justified their results by saying. Well, look, this is just how the operation unfolded one alderman, when introduced us to another to another to another. It was all about their personal connections. And a lot of other people felt the trade not just by their elected officials who take bribes, but by the investigation itself, also well in north Lauderdale John Christopher's mountain was still standing. I mean by the time the takedown actually happened this giant illegal construction debris dump head loomed over the neighborhood for almost six years, and the FBI and the US attorney's office had no intention of removing it, it wasn't part of the investigation or part of the take down. This is what Jim Davis who was the agent in charge of the investigation told me about this. I don't think that we it any obligation to clean up Henry, because first of all, it's not what we do. And we did. Create it. I mean, there are agencies that are responsible for cleaning up stuff like that. That's not our business. What about that? I mean couldn't the EPA brought in to help clean up the dump well in theory, but the EPA looked at the situation and said, you know, there's no hazardous waste here. This is a municipal waste problem. It's not our job to clean this up, and so really the city was left holding the Bill here. Of course. The city had already sued John Christopher and one. But instead of forcing him to clean it up. He had just cleared bankruptcy and had affectively disappeared and the FBI in giving John Christopher cover while he was an informant for them made this problem worse for all the people who had been fighting him. Way they said about him being a mall, does something that we never even -ticipant it on one of my visits to north Lonsdale Rita. And Michelle Ashford told me that they were shocked to suddenly, learn that the man that they've been fighting for six years was working for the FBI. Say all this, why we couldn't get any help. This is why we couldn't get any help with it. They knew all this was going on all alone before we even begin to fight for, in the reason why we couldn't get any Justice for anything because it was all about for me, and they knew it from the very beginning. We've just figured that John Christopher had that concrete, pal there. He was making money off of it. And that's the purpose of it. What civil shovel that was my first thing, what is civil shovel. And they said, oh, you did dumpsite as Chris, John. John Christopher Gladys Woodson the block club president and north Lonsdale told me that she and her neighbors were collateral damage they'd been used. They were never able to get traction fighting John Christopher and now they could see why he had to have begging, you know, 'cause people that we will compacting seem to, you know, was pushing it on the rug or not answering forever. On north Lonsdale, whose children had been hurt, whose property had been damaged whose neighborhood had been disrespected. This was a huge breach of trust this people that don't have asthma attack the people that own own oxygen machines that we have few people to move out of the neighborhood, just moved because they could no longer stand the dust and stuff. The news about operation silver shovel seem to confirm what they'd been saying for years about the government's neglect of their neighborhood. Because this face the fact, they wouldn't put that up in the white community not at all. John didn't have to be allowed to still have that Deng 'cause you had ammunition to use against him. What about John Christopher what happened to him when the whole thing broke when operation silver shovel was revealed? Well, even though John Christopher had agreed to wear wire for the FBI and had become the centerpiece of this major undercover investigation. His participation was not actually like a get out of jail free card. He did not have a deal with the FBI for full immunity. So FBI agent, Jim Davis told me that at the beginning of the investigation he had worn. John Christopher not to do anything illegal that wasn't part of the investigation, and I would just try and reassure them. And say, look, if you're straight with us, you know, if you continue to do what we're asking you to do if you know if you stay out of trouble, you're going to be okay. But John Christopher did not hold up his end of the bargain while the. Investigation was going on while he was cooperating with the FBI. He was still committing other crimes, and he went behind the bureau's back in other ways. So, for example, at the same time operation silver shovel was going on. The FBI was also looking into this illegal gambling operation run by an alleged mob boss, named Tony Centracchio John referred to amid his uncle, Tony, and that was a problem for me because we had aware Tony. The wire was a video camera hidden in the ceiling of Tony Centracchio office. And every time John went into seem we were recording. John in primarily criminal conversations which was adding to the mounting evidence that we're gonna have to present against him at the end of this case. It's not totally clear. What John Christopher was doing there because he was never charged in this illegal gambling case, but him showing up. Another investigations wire meet things really complicated for Jim Davis. And his fellow agents I would've liked to have said John stay away from uncle Tony's office, but I can't tell John that we have a a wire, and uncle Tony's office. John Christopher also neglected to file his federal income tax returns in nineteen ninety two and ninety three I know it seems so mundane. But ultimately, this is why he went to prison. John Christopher was sentenced to thirty nine months in prison. But he was never forced to clean up the dumps or provide restitution to anyone in north Lonsdale. And then after he got out of prison, he disappeared again. Maybe for good this time. You mean he's been going for, like twenty years? And nobody knows where he is. Did you try and track him down? Yeah. I've been looking for John Christopher for almost three years trying to figure out what happened to him after he got out of prison. Because he co-operated with the FBI he could not safely return to his old life or even be in Chicago without FBI protection. So I look for him everywhere I could think of and allied just I found nothing. Eventually, I learned the FBI had set him up with a new name, and new social security number, and a new life. And that there was this FBI agent in Saint Louis who might have all that information. So I asked if he would talk to me, and if not if he would pass John Christopher a message for me, and this was the response, I got from the FBI's public information officer. Hi, it's Rebecca we ESPN think Lewis, I spoke with the ancient. And he says, I appreciate I guess empathy for the force, but not surprisingly she the kinds to participate again. He says that it is his responsibility to protect the source, and that he hopes that you understand that so. Thank you very much. And let me know giving question by. Even after all this time it appears that the FBI is still protecting. John Christopher what about all the trash he left behind the dump itself? What happened to it? Well, when the feds washed their hands of this problem and said by by Chicago, and with all the intense public scrutiny and the national media coverage that operation silver shovel had garnered the city finally stepped in and started awarding contracts to companies who could haul. All this rubble away remember the law or mount Henry once stood spanned twenty one acres, and the mountain itself was six stories tall. So these cleanup contracts, we're going to be really big and really lucrative. The cleanup had just started in January nineteen ninety six when the Reverend Jesse Jackson Stockton Royds, remove the community because of going to be a good, lucrative job for someone to have. Job. So Reverend Jackson the civil rights activist and two time candidate for president had I come to Chicago in the nineteen sixties, his rainbow push coalition is headquartered here. And the way Jackson tells it when he first learned about operation silver shovel he realized that this cleanup presented a unique opportunity. John Christopher had dumped in a black neighborhood, and he had helped take down black politicians, but someone was gonna get paid to clean up the dumps and Jackson, one of the city to hire black owned trucking firms to do it. Roseling was resistance because those who use a good he's gonna job demand, the right to get them in the we demanded the right to that system. So Reverend Jackson mounted a major protest to back up his demands Roma's trucks, and the land removers on this frigid Saturday in early February nineteen ninety six. Dozens of diesel trucks, and bulldozers plastered with signs that said things like we want our fair share and hire us to clean up the dumps all these trucks, lined up in a convoy and headed for north Lonsdale. Do the full trip across the city of now? We just folks and practice and trailers, and dumpsters. We land up and across the city sub forever for two hours when the convoy arrived in north Lonsdale, the company that had started the cleanup blocked the entrance to the site, but Jackson and the truckers, eventually got into the site, and he gave a speech from on top of a tractor. He threatened to continue the protests into the summer when the democratic national convention was going to be in Chicago in advance of the ninety six election. The Chicago Tribune characterized his threats this way, give us what we want or watch as we wreak havoc on your big important party this summer. It was only then that the mayor agreed to hire black owned firms to clean up the dump those on the protests and it worked, but the residents of north Lonsdale were not impressed when the dumping had I started in their neighborhood. Reverend Jackson was one of the people they'd written to asking for help and was Woodson says they never heard back from him, at least, not until after operation silver shovel with finished and the camera crews arrived, the sewage show story broke. And then the next thing, I saw was just Jackson standing on top of the pal. And yeah, we did this and we send. No, you didn't. The in took credit for a lot of the stuff that had been done, but that was way after the fight. The cleanup continued through the spring of nineteen Ninety-six, one by one dump trucks filed onto the lot and backed up to the mountain bulldozers began slowly chipping away at the tightly packed mass of concrete, and dirt filling up truck after truck after truck residents like Gladys Woodson who'd watched in those early days as John Christopher set up shop. Now watch the process, slowly, rewind goon because I'm saying, wow. Now, we now is gone, it's going to be gone. Can you tell us what that was like? Dusty Bodas with the trucks, coming in to get the stuff. But at least they spray the street down, which, Chris, John never did never did eight years after John Christopher. I showed up north Lonsdale. The cleanup was over, and it was all like a puff of smoke and everything. Shame to miss here are Rita Ashford's daughters. Serena and Michelle just was one thing going to Nick rolling home loan. They will be rolling all night long. Getting it out of that once broke. And when you looked up the power went from, you know, the kids used to run up in fend on the top. They went from being up. That's it. It's just like a horse goal. So Robin, what happened to this vacant lot in the in twenty one years, located right there in the city, it must have been pretty coveted piece of real estate. Oh, yeah. It was basically like a blank canvas just waiting for the right kind of development. The kind could build community ties or bring jobs and money back into the neighborhood and. Especially after the embarrassment of operation silver shovel. This lot offered a chance for then mayor Richard m Daley's so-called renaissance to finally touchdown in Northland deal not to offload unwanted trash, but to build something new, but, like so many other opportunities in this story, this one was also squandered, there have been several attempts to build on the slot over the past twenty years. But so far, none have been successful. And the lot is still empty today. And for many of the north Lonzo residents, I spoke to a prime piece of real estate, this big that has sat empty, for this long indicates a larger problem, a kind of neglect, and abandonment that began long before John Christopher brought the first truckloads of debris to the lot and has continued long after what I want to say is like, I can't believe that this happened in an American city, but the truth is. Achin. What an incredible and frustrating story Robyn. Thank you so much for bringing it to us. Thanks for having me, Al. What did? Been over here, twenty twenty six years. A lot of memories. One day not too long ago. Daiki Nichols, took a walk in the lot with a mountain to loon the home to the evil. Rabbit, terrorized neighborhood kids Daiki was in high school. In the cleanup started. We was protective of it his down that was going to does what we'd be Daiki left to go away to college out of state, and when he came back the hills and the mountain had disappeared lightning heels going. So going back to me being a kid and they took out hills away, but may grow into the man, I am now really appreciate wiz. At now is gorgeous flaws. What a Houston beforehand, but it's still a vacant lot and the big picture problems greed and indifference that created the mountain. Are keeping the lot empty today? Thanks to Robin Amer for bringing us today story and the rest of the crew of USA. Today's the city Wilson Sayer, Jenny CASA's Sam Greenspan, Ben Austin mad dog and my friend, Amy park the city's executive producer is Liz Nelson and his brow. Composed. Original music for the city you can find the city on Facebook and Twitter at the city pot and visit their website, the city podcast dot com support for views provided by the Reeve and David Logan foundation. The John D and Catherine t MacArthur foundation, the Jonathan Logan family foundation. The Ford Foundation, the housing Simon's foundation and the ethics and excellence journalists would foundation reveal is a co production of the center for investigative reporting in P, R X amount letting and remember there is always more to the story. Ex-.