CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Former Ald. Willie Cochran was sentenced to a year and a day in prison Monday for pocketing money from a charity fund intended to help families and children from his South Side ward.
U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso said Cochran abused the public trust, noting "this was not a one-time lapse of judgment," the Chicago Sun-Times reported.
Before he was sentenced, Cochran apologized in court, saying, "I am better than this." He talked about his family and good works and said it was an "honor" to serve. Cochran called himself a community builder and asked for "a second chance."
After sentencing, Cochran criticized the proceedings and said it was a mistake to plead guilty.
Cochran, 67, admitted in a plea agreement that he used some of the contribution money for his own personal use, including paying his daughter's college tuition, withdrawing cash at casino ATMs, and purchasing items for his home, the U.S. Attorney's Office of the Northern District of Illinois said in a statement.
From January 2010 to April 2014, Cochran pocketed about $14,285 from the fund and converted the money to his own personal use, prosecutors said.
While Cochran was alderman of the 20th Ward, he operated the "20th Ward Activities Fund," which he purported to use for charitable endeavors to help families and children living in the ward, prosecutors said.
When soliciting donations to the fund, Cochran falsely represented that all contributions would be used for charitable events, including a back-to-school picnic, a Valentine's Day party for senior citizens, and events during the holiday season in November and December, prosecutors said.
Cochran, 67, pleaded guilty earlier this year to a count of wire fraud. The FBI began investigating Cochran after receiving information from the former City of Chicago Legislative Inspector General's Office.