This story has been big in the Chicago area. However for those 
not local to Chicago, you may not have heard of it. Because CN 
goes out to an international audience, it was agreed between Mr. 
Sherman Skolnick and myself that some background on "Silver 
Shovel" ought to be given before offering further details (next 
An article in the Chicago Tribune apparently dated January 15, 
1996, tells the gist of it. John Christopher was an FBI "mole": 
he was used by the FBI to infiltrate certain political and 
business relationships. Christopher and others "took advantage of 
a legal loophole and exploited the economics of the late 1980s 
and early 1990s to make millions in profits by piling up 
mountains of construction debris on vacant lots in poor 
residential or industrial neighborhoods."
Fees for dumping waste in licensed landfills are much higher than 
for dumping in illegal landfills. So, contractors would want to 
save money by dumping in the unlicensed landfills. The consequent 
increased business brought in a lot of money to operators of the 
illegal, unlicensed dumps. What is more, it is *feared* 
(according to the Jan. 15 Tribune article) that toxic chemicals 
will turn up at these sites.
"For neighborhoods such as the one around the dump at Roosevelt 
Road and Kostner Avenue [Chicago's west side; a poor, African- 
American neighborhood], the damage has been done. The ugly, 
jagged mound of concrete, dirt and other garbage rises above the 
struggling community."
The article goes on to note that the illegal dumps tend to be 
located in "lower-income black and Latino communities."
The Operation Silver Shovel investigation "centered on city 
contracts for hauling construction debris," says the Jan. 7, 1996 
Chicago Tribune. The FBI mole, John Christopher, "a waste hauler 
with a criminal past and reputed ties to organized crime," wore a 
hidden microphone which allowed the feds to secretly tape his 
conversations. Christopher agreed to do this, according to the 
Washington Post ("Probe Unearths Another Load Of Graft at Chicago 
City Hall," Jan. 12, 1996) "after he became the target of a fraud 
investigation in connection with the collapse of a local bank."
Because Christopher had developed political associations as he 
sought city contracts, he was a "ready-made mole" for 
investigators looking into ongoing corruption in Cook County. 
(Chicago is in Cook County, Illinois.)
Another Tribune article, dated January 10, 1996, also mentions 
"Operation Greylord", often mentioned by Mr. Skolnick:
  In the 1980s, the federal Operation Greylord investigation of 
  the Cook County courts unearthed scores of sleazy lawyers and 
  judges who were sent to jail, disbarred or suspended for 
  their misdeeds. The scope of corruption was incredible.
  Yet even more remarkable than that, right when the scoundrels 
  were heading off to jail and everyone knew that the feds were 
  crawling all over the courts, some lawyers and judges kept 
  fixing cases. That produced Operation Gambat, which sent more 
  crooks off to jail.
  Operation Silver Shovel, the latest sting operation to focus 
  on Chicago politicians, looks like a big haul.
  The central accusation is particularly galling: that 
  politicians took bribes to allow the illegal dumping of 
  industrial waste in their own neighborhoods.
  The one positive element is that the leaders of the city's 
  Department of Environment apparently have made an honest, 
  dogged and successful legal effort to stop John Christopher, 
  the FBI mole who operated five dump sites in the city.
  The city officials who fought Christopher question whether 
  the FBI's embrace of their nemesis in any way hampered their 
  efforts. The question deserves an answer, and the feds ought 
  to provide it. ["Caught With a Silver Shovel in Hand," Chicago 
  Tribune, Jan. 10, 1996. *Excerpts only*]
So in other words, Christopher was in the illegal dumping 
business, he knew "all the right people", and the FBI used him to 
trap others -- especially bribe-taking politicians -- in return 
for going easy on him in regard to the previously mentioned bank 
collapse and other unsavory associations.
The story is summarized in the abovementioned Washington Post 
article. Writing in the Post, Edward Walsh reports that 
"investigators had uncovered evidence of more than $150,000 in 
bribes and other payoffs involving public officials, other bribes 
involving labor union activities, cocaine purchases and money 
laundering of more than $2.2 million..."
Says U.S. Attorney James B. Burns, quoted by Walsh in his Post 
article, "Unfortunately, [the investigation] demonstrates that 
Chicago's time-honored tradition of political corruption, 
including payoffs and extortion, has not vanished despite 
previous successful undercover corruption probes."