The FBI is investigating potentially improper vaccinations Loretto Hospital administered at its CEO’s suburban church — including the city of Chicago’s role in the vaccinations, government records show.
A federal grand jury subpoena was issued to the city’s law department on Nov. 10, more than five months after Block Club Chicago revealed the West Side hospital vaccinated people at an Oak Forest church whose leader is a friend of Loretto CEO George Miller.
The FBI is also probing vaccinations the hospital did at Trump Tower, Block Club and the Better Government Association reported earlier this year. All the subpoenas were issued “pursuant to an official criminal investigation.”
The most recent subpoena focused on the church vaccinations, which were done in February at Valley Kingdom Ministries International in southwest suburban Oak Forest. The FBI asked for documents related to outreach to the church by city officials, as well as city use of the church to administer vaccines, and visits to the church made by city officials surrounding the February vaccination event.
In a brief telephone interview, Miller referred reporters to hospital representatives, who did not return calls for comment. Apostle H. Daniel Wilson, a longtime pastor at Valley Kingdom Ministries International, could not immediately be reached for comment.
City spokespeople could not immediately respond to request for comment Friday, but Mayor Lori Lightfoot has previously said the city is cooperating with the FBI investigation.
The subpoenas represent demands for records and information and made no allegations of wrongdoing against any church leader, Loretto administrator or city official. The subpoenas also do not spell out the scope of the grand jury investigation or its targets.
The Illinois Attorney General’s Office is already investigating the hospital for “potential misuse of charitable assets” following reports from Block Club and the BGA that revealed one of former CFO Anosh Ahmed’s friends won contracts worth $4 million from the nonprofit hospital while Loretto board members took hospital-funded Caribbean trips, among other benefits.
As the pandemic tore through low-income communities of color, officials provided Illinois’ first vaccination doses to Loretto in December, in large part to assure Black and Latino citizens they would be prioritized and protected.
But Loretto then administered vaccines at Trump Tower, where Ahmed lived; at a Gold Coast watch shop and jewelry store and to workers of a Downtown steakhouse.
The first vaccine event at the church was held Feb. 6, less than two weeks after the city opened eligibility and many older, at-risk Chicagoans were still desperately trying to get shots. Members got their second shots Feb. 27.
Valley Kingdom Ministries was one of the first churches — if not the first — visited by the hospital, according to newsletters written by Miller to Loretto staff and obtained by Block Club. Beyond the professed friendship between Miller and Wilson, senior pastor at Valley Kingdom Ministries International, it is not clear why the church would have been given such preference.
At the time, only frontline workers and people 65 and older were broadly eligible for the vaccines. Officials were also voicing concerns to many of the city’s vaccine doses — up to 40 percent — were going to people who live in the suburbs.
Loretto sent a team to the church “to administer 204 vaccinations of their members, who lived, worked or received their [health care] from those living in Chicago,” Miller wrote in a newsletter to hospital staff that spring. Later, in the same newsletter, he acknowledged demand was high in the city, writing, “In the coming weeks, our goal is to obtain more COVID-19 vaccines to administer because the demand is extremely high. We are attracting new patients that have never visited [Loretto] before.”
In a video from Feb. 28, the church’s leader, Wilson, and Miller discuss having been friends for more than 40 years. They attended college together, were fraternity brothers and are even close enough that Miller attended Wilson’s bachelor party, they say in the video.
In the video, Wilson directly thanks Miller for the vaccinations and says the people vaccinated came from the church and “Chicagoland area,” a term used to describe the vast metropolitan area in and around the city.
“We vaccinated 200 primarily members from the Valley and from the Chicagoland area, and it could not have been done without the leadership, the open heart and the spirit of a brother beloved,” Wilson says of Miller. “You’re a friend, you’re a brother beloved, you’re a frat brother. But you’re a member of this ministry.”
In the video, Wilson gives an award to Miller to thank him for bringing Loretto to the church — and Miller then gives an award to Wilson for being Loretto’s “faith partner.”
Loretto’s self-audit of its vaccinations lists the shots done at the church as “decided eligible … outside of Chicago — healthcare in Chicago, work in Chicago, 65+.” But the report doesn’t say how or if the hospital determined if people who got shots at those events met those eligibility requirements.
Miller remains the CEO of Loretto Hospital. Another executive, Ahmed, resigned in March after Block Club revealed the vaccinations at Trump Tower, where Ahmed lived, and at businesses where Ahmed frequented.
In a March letter to Loretto’s staff, Miller took responsibility for the Trump Tower event, saying he authorized it. The hospital’s board decided he would be suspended for two weeks without pay, though it was not clear when that suspension would happen since the hospital was then searching for Ahmed’s replacement, a hospital spokesperson previously said.
The hospital’s self-audit stated it administered 70 unapproved, ineligible vaccines at Trump Tower on March 10.
The city’s health department suspended vaccine doses to Loretto until the hospital could put its program in order. State Rep. LaShawn Ford of Chicago stepped down from the hospital’s board March 23 to protest its slowness in responding to the mounting scandals. The next day, Ahmed resigned.
On March 25, Lightfoot called for an independent investigation into the hospital’s vaccinations.
The subpoenas state the current investigation is overseen by Assistant U.S. Attorney Sheri Mecklenburg, who often handles complex financial cases, including white collar fraud and crimes against the elderly. She referred questions to an agency spokesman, who declined comment.