CHICAGO — Two aldermen — one current, one former — were indicted by the feds Thursday. But Chicagoans know that’s just the tip of an iceberg when it comes to Chicago aldermen and corruption.
Chicago is routinely named the most corrupt city in the United States, according to a UIC study. We’ve had 30 aldermen convicted of corruption since 1973.
And a lot has happened since 2019.
Here’s a list of current and former aldermen who have been indicted, raided or implicated by the feds, charged with a crime or convicted of corruption since 2019:
In January 2019, the feds charged current Ald. Ed Burke (14th) — the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history and then-chairman of the powerful Finance Committee — with attempted extortion.
Burke, 75 when he was charged, allegedly tried to steer real estate tax work to his law firm by holding up remodeling permits and a driveway permit for a Burger King in his Southwest Side ward. His back-and-forth with workers at the company was captured on tape by the feds, who also conducted physical surveillance and got help from the fast food company workers, according to the federal complaint.
The complaint also alleges Burke urged the Burger King executives to donate campaign cash to Toni Preckwinkle, who was running for another term as Cook County Board president.
Burke, who has served as alderman for more than 50 years, pled not guilty to the corruption charges and has denied wrongdoing.
Patrick Daley Thompson
On Thursday, the feds charged current Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th), with income tax fraud and making false statements to regulators.
The 51-year-old Bridgeport alderman is the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley and grandson of former Mayor Richard J. Daley.
According to the charges, Thompson received $219,000 in loans from Washington Federal between 2011 and 2014, before he was elected to City Council in 2015. He made just one payment before halting payments. And he failed to pay interest on the money he received, according to the indictment.
The bank was shut down in 2017, just two weeks after bank President John F. Gembara was found dead in the Park Ridge home of a bank customer and friend. The death was ruled a suicide.
After the closure, regulators tried to collect $66 million in outstanding loans Washington Federal had out, including the money lent to Thompson. In 2018, the alderman told regulators he owed just $110,000, which wasn’t true, according to the indictment.
Thompson is also accused of filing five years of false income tax returns, saying he paid interest on the loan when he had not, the indictment said.
If convicted, Thompson could face a maximum of 30 years in prison.
Thompson, who was elected 11th Ward alderman in 2016 and reelected in 2019, has denied any wrongdoing.
“First, my conscience is clear. I did not commit any crime. I am innocent and I will prove it at trial,” he said.
On Thursday, the feds charged former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) with wire fraud and money laundering.
Muñoz, 56, was charged with using money from a political action committee to pay for vacations, jewelry, college tuition and other personal perks.
Federal prosecutors allege Muñoz misappropriated tens of thousands of dollars from the Progressive 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 the caucus’ 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 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.
Muñoz, who served as alderman for more than 25 years until stepping down in 2019, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
In January 2019, then-Ald. Danny Solis (25th) was outed as a federal informant.
In January 2019, the Sun-Times revealed Solis, then-chairman of the powerful Committee on Zoning, wore a wire for the feds, recording Burke over a two-year period. He was pressured to do so after he was confronted by the feds about his own alleged wrongdoing. The feds alleged Solis received sex acts at massage parlors, the erectile dysfunction drug Viagra and campaign contributions in exchange for ushering deals through City Council.
Then, the Sun-Times received a federal affidavit showing the FBI secretly recorded then-Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan trying to get business for his law firm from a developer brought to him by Solis. Madigan has not been charged and he has said he is not under investigation, according to the report.
Solis, who served the 25th Ward for more than 25 years, finished out his term in 2019. He has not been charged with a crime.
In June 2019, the feds raided current Ald. Carrie Austin’s 34th Ward office.
It remains unclear what prompted the raid.
Austin, who was appointed alderman and has served the Far South Side since 1994, has denied any wrongdoing. She has not been charged with a crime.
Proco ‘Joe’ Moreno
In May 2019, then-Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) was arrested on felony charges of insurance fraud and obstruction of justice.
Police and prosecutors alleged Moreno let a woman he was dating get arrested in the luxury car he loaned her after falsely reporting the car was stolen from his garage.
He was ousted from City Council that year.
Then, this January, Moreno was sent to jail after being charged with drunken driving in the Gold Coast, which violated his bond. Moreno, 48, slammed into eight parked cars on North Astor Street, police said.
He was released from jail on bond but was ordered to undergo substance use treatment.
In June 2019, former Ald. Willie Cochran (20th) was sentenced to a year in prison after pleading guilty to a federal wire fraud charge.
In pleading guilty, Cochran admitted he deposited a $2,000 check into a bank account he opened to fund charitable events in his South Side ward and took out $489 in cash at an Indiana casino for his personal use
When Cochran was indicted in 2017, prosecutors initially alleged he took $25,000 to support a gambling habit and $5,000 to pay his daughter’s college tuition from a 20th Ward fund he set up to help kids and other local residents. They also alleged Cochran shook down a lawyer for $1,500 and a local liquor store owner for $3,000 in exchange for helping them in the ward, prosecutors said.
Cochran was indicted on 15 counts of wire fraud, bribery and extortion. Through a plea deal, he pled guilty to a single charge.
Cochran’s conviction removed him from the City Council under state law.
Cochran, 66 at the time of his sentencing and a former police officer, became the 30th Chicago alderman to be convicted of corruption since 1973 as well as the third alderman of the 20th Ward to plead guilty after being charged with crimes.
As alderman, Cochran earned $116,208 annually in addition to his $60,280 yearly police pension, records show.
In 2019, former Ald. Edward Vrdolyak (10th), one of the most controversial aldermen in the City Council during a nearly-two decade run in the ’70s and 80s, pleaded guilty to obstructing an IRS investigation into a friend and fellow lawyer.
Known as “Fast Eddie” during his City Council days, it was his second federal conviction in the past 10 years.
In 2010, he was convicted in a real estate kickback scheme and sentenced to 10 months in prison.
Vrdolyak was sentenced in December 2020 to 18 months in federal prison for his latest conviction, but that sentence was put on hold amid the coronavirus pandemic.
In May 2019, the feds raided the home of former Ald. Michael R. Zalewski (23rd), a close ally of former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, according to his attorney.
Zalewski, who served as alderman from 1995 to 2018, has not been charged with a crime.
“Michael has been known to be a hardworking straight shooter his entire life. We do not think that this investigation will change his good reputation,” his attorney told the Tribune at the time.
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