FBI, IRS continue raids by targeting 3 village offices in Cook County
Federal agents raided the offices of three suburban villages, including one governed by a mayor who doubles as a Cook County commissioner. All three are in the district of state Sen. Martin Sandoval, also the subject of a federal raid.
A trio of west suburban villages in Cook County were the latest subjects of an escalating federal corruption probe in Illinois, with all three in the district of a state senator who also was the target of federal raids two days earlier.
On Sept. 26, FBI agents raided government offices in the villages of McCook, Lyons and Summit, accompanied by officers from the IRS’ Criminal Investigation Division, according to the Chicago Tribune.
Federal agents searched the village halls of each of the three suburbs, in addition to Getty Insurance, where Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty is president. Getty’s family owns the firm, according to the village’s website.
An FBI spokesperson in a statement described the McCook and Lyons raids as “authorized law enforcement activity,” according to the Tribune, which the agency distinguished from the “investigative activity” conducted in Summit.
McCook village attorney Gary Perlman told the Chicago Sun-Times the search warrant sought information concerning “various contractors that have done work with the village.” McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski, who has held the village’s top public office since 2007, has simultaneously served as a Cook County Board commissioner since 2010.
Tobolski has a history of using his mayoral role to dole out patronage hires, having “hired numerous family members for village jobs,” according to the Sun-Times. His brother currently serves as McCook’s village treasurer.
Lyons’ village history is also rich with corruption, as retold in a May report from the Better Government Association. Getty’s father was mayor and went to prison for stealing from the village.
The trio of raids were the latest in Illinois to involve authorities from both the FBI and IRS, conducted on Sept. 24 just two days after raids on the home and offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Chicago. McCook, Lyons and Summit are all within Sandoval’s senate district.
Federal authorities confirmed they’re investigating allegations that Sandoval had used his political office to award government contracts to at least one company in exchange for kickbacks. Sandoval played a leading role in passing Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s massive capital plan that was supported in part by doubling the state gas tax. Infrastructure bills are notorious hotbeds of political favoritism, and many of Sandoval’s political donors are “engineering, planning, construction and related companies,” Crain’s Chicago Business noted.
The Chicago Tribune reported in April that state Rep. Jay Hoffman, D-Swansea, had acknowledged this form of horse trading explicitly, saying, “A capital bill is helpful for people being able to take votes so they can show that these (other) votes were worth it for their district.” Hoffman is assistant House leader under House Speaker Michael Madigan and a former House Transportation Committee chairman.
These latest raids appear to be part of an ongoing federal investigation into Illinois and Chicago political power brokers. The investigation appeared to peak in May when federal prosecutors brought a 14-count indictment against powerful Ald. Ed Burke, 14th Ward, Chicago’s longest-serving alderman.
The investigation into Burke revealed former Chicago Ald. Danny Solis had worn a wire to record Burke, in cooperation with the FBI. Weeks following the Burke indictment, FBI agents raided the ward office of Ald. Carrie Austin, 34th Ward; and a federal court sentenced former Ald. Willie Cochran to one year in prison on corruption charges – the 30th Chicago alderman since 1972 convicted of a felony related to his official duties.
Moreover, a series of federal raids on the homes of high-ranking political insiders appears to be circling in on Madigan, the nation’s longest-serving Statehouse speaker. Madigan confidants have all been the subject of high-profile federal raids including former state lawmaker and lobbyist Mike McClain, former Chicago Ald. Michael Zalewski and former Madigan political lieutenant Kevin Quinn.
In August, a federal indictment against state Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, on embezzlement charges became the latest political corruption bombshell to drop. Cullerton has pleaded not guilty to those charges.
Gov. J.B. Pritzker and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot both campaigned on promises to fight corruption and clean up state and local government, respectively. Lightfoot has moved the city closer to those goals by empowering the city watchdog and limiting conflicts of interest, as well as introducing reforms to the city’s controversial workers’ comp program and ticketing-and-towing scheme.
Pritzker is the subject of a federal investigation into a scheme to save $331,000 on property taxes by removing the toilets from a neighboring mansion he owns on Chicago’s Gold Coast so it could be deemed uninhabitable and the value drop from about $6.25 million to about $1.1 million. He paid the taxes after the story became public.
His promises to fight corruption have so far gone unfulfilled.