I-Team: Barry Croall, Ex-Cook County flood relief program head, indicted in federal fraud case

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The subject of an I-Team investigation four years ago has been indicted in a federal fraud case. He is the former head of Cook County's Disaster Grant and Flood Relief Program, Barry Croall.

The flood program was a mess from the start under then-Cook County Board President Todd Stroger, and now the man Stroger put in charge of doling out disaster grants has been busted by the feds. Barry Croall and an associate are charged in a scheme to siphon taxpayer emergency funds into their own pockets.

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On Thursday, Croall was arrested on charges that he siphoned hundreds of thousands of program dollars for himself. The last time the I-Team saw Barry Croall was September 2010, when he was pitching prizes to flood victims at the Brookfield Zoo. Croall was manager of Cook County's $10.3 million program for flood victims.

The I-Team investigation found that even though some flooded-out homeowners were still in need of help, Croall used taxpayer's flood relief money on a Sunday picnic for recipients including a buffet, fountain drinks, face painting for the kiddies and T-shirt giveaways. Some flood victims didn't think much of the idea.

"If a man is drowning, you throw him a rope, you don't throw him a party," said

Now, it is Croall who needs the rope after he was arrested by federal agents who say he swindled at least $330,000 from the flood relief program.

The 45-year-old British national and permanent U.S. resident was named in a multi-count federal fraud indictment along with management contractor Ron Ford. They are charged in a scheme to defraud the grant program by falsifying invoices with inflated costs, from which authorities say they received kickbacks.

Croall used the money for personal purchases, say prosecutors, including mortgage payments, credit card and car payments and homeowner's fees. He pleaded not guilty Thursday afternoon and bond was set at $4,500.

After court, he told the I-Team he did nothing wrong.

"The allegations are false. I know what they want to make it look and seem like, it's not true. And, we'll be in court with the evidence. They've spent four years trying to put something together to suggest it is something they want it to be, and it isn't that," said Croall.

Croall says he was last interviewed by federal investigators a year ago. His co-defendant Ron Ford was not arrested Thursday, but is scheduled to go before a judge on Friday. Reached by phone on Thursday, Ford said he knew nothing of the charges, but then referred us to his lawyer and hung up before providing the attorney's name.

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