CHICAGO — Longtime political operative Roberto Caldero was indicted by a federal grand jury this week for allegedly promising campaign funds to disgraced Ald. Danny Solis to help an Ohio company land a Chicago Public Schools custodial contract.
Wednesday’s indictment stems from an investigation dating back to 2016 that ensnared Solis, who began cooperating with federal prosecutors as a result. He didn’t return to City Council after word of got out that he wore a wire for the feds.
A grand jury late Wednesday indicted Caldero on charges of offering bribes to Solis and other officials to benefit his clients, some who sought a $1 billion custodial contract with CPS. Another client sought to name a park and get an honorary street designation in the city, according to court documents.
Caldero was charged with four counts of honest wire fraud, two counts of federal program bribery, and two counts of using a facility in interstate commerce to facilitate bribery.
The 68-year-old allegedly offered a CPS employee — identified by multiple media outlets as Pedro Soto, the former chief of staff to CPS CEO Janice Jackson — future employment, champagne, discounted event space for a family event and admission to an annual benefit for a museum, according to the record records.
According to court records, Caldero also allegedly gave Solis a $1,000 check on Nov. 2016. Caldero later sent an additional $5,000 to the alderman’s campaign fund, according to the indictment.
The following summer, Caldero asked Solis “to exert pressure” on then-CPS CEO Forrest Claypool for the custodial bid, offering another $15,000 “if we got things done,” according to the indictment.
The Ohio-based firm seeking the bid was GCA Educational Services Central States Inc., according to the Sun-Times. It ended up losing the bid.
The latest indictment provides additional details of the wide-reaching corruption probe with Solis at the center. In 2019, the Sun-Times revealed Solis had been cooperating with the feds. He has not been charged amid his cooperation.
Last summer, Soto pleaded guilty for lying to the FBI about giving out inside information about the bidding process on the custodial contract.
Reached by phone Thursday, Caldero denied the charges.
“I didn’t give anyone in exchange for anything … that’s totally false,” Caldero said. “I’ve never given anything to an elected official or a government employee in exchange for anything. It was never quid-pro-quo.”
In an interview with WBEZ, Caldero said he had dealt with commissioners and elected officials since Harold Washington days. “Nobody ever said I went to them and offered them a bribe. It’s not my style. It’s not something I would even think of doing.”
Separately Wednesday, former Democratic State Rep. Edward “Eddie” Acevedo and his two sons, Alex and Michael, were indicted on tax fraud charges, according to court records.
Edward Acevedo faces six counts for attempting to evade taxes by “making cash deposits into his personal bank account to conceal the nature and source of payments made to him,” according to court documents.
Alex Acevedo, who lost a contentious race for the 25th Ward aldermanic seat in 2019, faces two counts for understating gross income for 2017 and 2018. Michael Acevedo understated his gross income in 2015, and failed to file taxes between 2016 and 2018, according to the indictment.
Last year, the feds subpoenaed Edward Acevedo’s lobbying records, in addition to his son’s lobbying firm Apex Strategy LLC., according to the Tribune.
Frank Avila, who is listed as Edward Acevedo’s attorney, declined to comment. Alex and Michael Acevedo could not be reached for comment.
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