Former Agency Owner Sentenced to Prison in Pay-to-Play Scandal

Don Donagher, the former owner and chief executive of Penn Credit, was sentenced to three months in prison on Friday, after pleading guilty to making payments to support the former Circuit Court Clerk of Cook County, Illinois, as a means of attempting to help land contracts for his company.

Originally charged back in 2019 with six counts of fraud and allegedly steering money in a pay-to-play scheme, Donagher pleaded guilty last year to one count of corruptly giving something of value to a public official. Specifically, he paid $860 to a trophy company to buy plaques for an event that was being hosted by the Cook County Clerk, as well as paying $1,000 to a food company for catering expenses. When he pleaded guilty, Donagher admitted he was attempting to reward the Clerk for her role in steering business to his company. The original indictment accused Donagher of donating $10,000 to the Clerk’s campaign fund after he had sent an email to a company lobbyist indicating that the funds had been promised as a thank you for the company being awarded a contract with the Court.

Penn Credit had previously entered into a deferred prosecution agreement and agreed to pay a fine of $225,000.

In issuing the prison sentence, District Court judge John Lee said it was important to send a message that the public’s interest comes first, in a city where “citizens have suffered through a long and sordid history of public corruption convictions,” according to a published report. “Frankly the public deserves more.”

Donagher’s attorney said during the hearing that his client was doing nothing more than attempting to stay in the good graces of a politician who may or may not have had control of awarding business to Penn Credit. Prosecutors countered that “this was not a crime that was borne of need, it was a crime that was born of greed.”

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