Ex-state Sen. Thomas Cullerton sentenced to year in prison in federal embezzlement case

Former Illinois state Sen. Thomas Cullerton was sentenced to a year in prison for illegally receiving nearly $250,000 in salary and benefits from a Chicago-area labor union.

U.S. District Judge Robert W. Gettleman handed down the year-and-a-day sentence after a Monday hearing in federal court in Chicago.

"Every time you took that paycheck from the Teamsters without working for it, you knew that you were doing something wrong," Gettleman said while handing down the sentence.

Cullerton pleaded guilty to the federal embezzlement charge in March.

Cullerton, a member of a family whose political fortunes here date back to just before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, faced indictment since August 2019. But the Villa Park Democrat held onto his office until last month, resigning just before his attorney revealed his plans to plead guilty.


The indictment against Cullerton revolved around Cullerton’s role as an organizer for Teamsters Joint Council 25. He landed that job after his former employer, Hostess Brands, shut down in 2012. Coli told prosecutors he arranged for Cullerton’s hiring as an organizer "but did not believe the employment was legitimate," according to court filings.

Cullerton was accused of collecting $169,488 in salary, bonuses and cellphone and vehicle allowances from the Teamsters as well as $57,662 in health and pension contributions, while doing little or no work for the labor union. He was also accused of collecting $21,678 in reimbursed medical claims.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu wrote in a November court filing that Cullerton "was a virtual no-show at work over the course of three years" and "was invariably unavailable" to his supervisors. Bhachu described Cullerton as "a ghost worker" who "effectively was on a permanent vacation."

The Sun-Times Media Wire contributed to this report.