LITTLE VILLAGE — The same day a sitting alderman was indicted for bank fraud, a longtime former alderman was charged with using money from a political action committee to pay for vacations, jewelry, college tuition and other personal perks.
Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) faces 15 federal counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering for repeatedly taking money from the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus’ PAC for his own use. He was indicted by a Chicago federal grand jury Thursday.
The announcement came less than an hour after the feds revealed Bridgeport Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th) had been indicted for bank fraud.
Muñoz, 56, did not immediately respond to a request for comment. He represented the Little Village ward from 1993 until 2019. After announcing he wouldn’t seek reelection, he endorsed now-Ald. Michael Rodriguez.
Federal prosecutors allege Muñoz misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars from the Progress Caucus’ PAC between October 2016 and June 2020, according to the indictment. Muñoz allegedly took the money through cash withdrawals and debit card charges, or transferred the money from CPRC’s accounts, to another political account he controlled — Citizens for Muñoz — and then into his personal checking account. He hid the alleged fraud by making false reports to the Illinois State Board of Elections, and to staffers and contractors working with the PAC.
Muñoz was the chairman of CPRC and served as treasurer for its accounts, according to the feds.
He used the money to pay for a relative’s college tuition, and other personal expenses including clothing, iPhones, sports tickets and airline tickets, a car loan payment, aerial sightseeing trips, skydiving excursions and other entertainment, according to the feds.
The charges allege Muñoz:
- Took $16,000 out of the caucus’ political account in October 2016, transferred the money to a joint personal account, then used it to make a college tuition payment for a relative. He then received a loan in December 2016 and transferred $16,000 back into the CPRC account.
- Took $7,100 from the CPRC account in October 2018 and transferred the money to his personal account for his own uses. In one of the money transfers, he falsely reported to the state that CPRC had paid $5,000 to a contractor for “consulting.”
- Took $2,300 from the CPRC account in October 2018 for his own spending. He told someone working with the PAC the money had been used for “Election Day expenses.”
- Took $900 from the CPRC account in December 2018 for his own use.
- Made $10,560 in cash withdrawals from the CPRC account in November and December 2018.
- Spent $1,432 on the PAC’s debit card on tickets, meals and items from Lover’s Lane between November 2018 and February 2019
An arraignment has not yet been scheduled. Each count of wire fraud can carry a sentence of up to 20 years in prison if convicted, while the money laundering charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years, according to the feds.
In 2019, as he was on his way out of office, filings with the state board showed Muñoz had spent nearly $37,000 in “unauthorized expenditures” from the Progressive Caucus political fund, including more than $13,000 he took for himself, according to The Daily Line.
Ed Mullen, the Progressive Caucus’ PAC’s attorney, said Muñoz was the only person with access to the account, according to a letter to state officials.
By that time, Muñoz had been booted from his role on the caucus and was replaced as chair by Ald. Scott Waguespack(32nd), who helped expose the misappropriated funds.
Besides the thousands he paid himself, and $2,800 he improperly transferred to his own political committee, Muñoz also improperly spent the Progressive Caucus PAC’s money on:
- $14,800 for Alta Vista Graphics in May 2018
- Roughly $1,800 at Nuevo Leon Restaurant in June 2018
- $1,070 to Cesar Campa in October 2018
- Close to $550 to Southwest Airlines in November 2018
- Approximately $400 at La Scarola Restaurant in September 2017
- Approximately $290 at the Crowne Plaza Los Angeles Airport in November 2018
- More than $250 at Eddie V’s, a seafood and jazz restaurant in Pittsburgh, and close to $150 at Saputo’s in Springfield
At the time, Muñoz called it a misunderstanding and said he would be paying the money back. At the time of the story, he had repaid $24,900.
While he was facing charges, the then-outgoing alderman was absent from City Hall. He told Block Club he was treated at an Indiana rehab facility and suburban Dundee facility where he received outpatient rehab treatment for alcoholism. Muñoz has been open about his struggles with alcohol.
Congressman Jesús “Chuy” García (IL-04) said in a statement he was “both saddened and deeply disappointed” to hear of Muñoz’s indictment. Muñoz was appointed to replace García as alderman by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 1993.
“I have been aware of his struggles with addiction and other personal issues, but this is shocking and distressing news,” García said. “The indictment is a stain on his aldermanic track record of fighting and delivering for the people of the 22nd Ward. Throughout my career, I have always held myself and all those with whom I have worked to the highest standards of ethical and lawful conduct. I have no tolerance for abuse of the political process or of the public trust.”
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