Ex-Collection Agency CEO Pleads Guilty in Pay-to-Play Scandal

The former owner of a collection agency pleaded guilty yesterday to one count of making payments to support the former Circuit Court Clerk of Cook County, Illinois, while the company he ran entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and will pay a $225,000 fine. Donald Donagher, who ran Penn Credit Corp., will be sentenced on January 21.

Donagher was indicted back in 2019 on six counts of fraud for allegedly steering money to county clerks in Illinois and Florida in exchange for debt collection accounts.

Three of the six counts Donagher was charged with were dismissed earlier this year by a federal judge who ruled that there was not enough proof of an explicit quid pro quo in the indictment for those charges to continue. Ultimately, Donagher pleaded guilty to one count of alleging he paid $869 in March 2014 to a trophy company that provided plaques that were provided to judges being honored during a Women’s History Month event managed by Dorothy Brown, the former Circuit Court Clerk of Cook County. Donagher also admitted to paying $1,000 to cater an event for Brown. Emails sent by Donagher to his employees and lobbyists said it was important to “stay ahead” of other vendors competing for the business and that “we are fans” of Brown.

Under the deferred prosecution agreement, Penn Credit admitted to engaging in the corruption scheme at Donagher’s request. After paying the fine and agreeing to take “remedial measures to enhance its ethics and compliance programs” and continuing to cooperate with prosecutors for two years, the charges against the company will be dismissed.

A copy of Donagher’s plea agreement can be accessed by clicking here. A copy of Penn Credit’s deferred prosecution agreement can be accessed by clicking here.

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