CHICAGO — According to the Chicago Tribune, John Balzano, 58, and Natalie Balzano, 55, manager and president respectively of J&J Car Wash of Chicago, which was under contract to wash city vehicles, have been charged with defrauding Chicago of over $900,000 by allegedly using suppliers that didn’t comply with the minority business requirements.

The husband and wife were each charged with felony theft, theft of government property, wire fraud, mail fraud and fraudulently obtaining money reserved for disadvantaged business enterprises, while Natalie Balzano was also charged with two counts of forgery, the article continued.

The Balzanos allegedly created a scheme to inflate prices in order to make it appear as if the carwash was complying with the minority business requirements, the article noted.

The Balzanos worked with Oak Pak-based PJ’s Ace Hardware, a subcontractor in line with the city’s minority business enterprise rules, who allegedly created fake invoices for carwash products that were sold and delivered by suppliers who were not minority-owned, the article reported.

John Balzano ordered directly from those suppliers, the article noted, and then PJ’s Ace Hardware allegedly created new invoices marked up by 15 or 20 percent, which Balzano paid to make it appear that the carwash was in compliance with the city’s minority business contract goal to spend at least 16.9 percent of the total contract price with minority-owned businesses.

Natalie Balzano then submitted bids to the city for carwash contracts, the article stated.

The city estimated that it lost $931,949 in the so-called “pass-through” scheme, the article added.

Both J&J Car Wash and PJ’s Ace Hardware have been banned from doing business with the city as a result of the scheme, the article concluded.

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