CHICAGO (Sun-Times Media Wire) - Ald. Edward M. Burke was indicted by a federal grand jury Thursday on racketeering and bribery charges for allegedly abusing his power to solicit legal work from companies doing business with the city.
Prosecutors lay out in a 59-page indictment how Burke, once one of the most powerful politicians in the city, allegedly steered work to his private law firm from companies involved in redevelopment projects, including the Old Main Post Office and a Burger King restaurant on the Southwest Side.
The indictment details conversations secretly recorded by then-Ald. Danny Solis, who the Sun-Times reported had been cooperating with the feds for two years. Solis secretly recorded several conversations involving Burke, the indictment states.
Solis allegedly acted as a middleman in helping Burke shake down the developer of the Old Post Office for legal work in return for Burke moving the project along, the indictment states. Solis recorded Burke indicating that Solis would get a kickback for helping Burke get legal business.
In another alleged scheme, Burke threatened to oppose a proposed fee increase at a Chicago museum because the museum failed to reply to his inquiry about an internship at the museum for a child of Burke’s friend.
Burke, 75, is charged with one count of racketeering, two counts of federal program bribery, two counts of attempted extortion, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion and eight counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity. His arraignment is scheduled for June 4.
The indictment also charges Burke’s top political aide, Peter J. Andrews, with conspiring with the alderman to extort the operator of a Burger King in his ward.
Andrews, 69, is charged with one count of attempted extortion, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, two counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity and one count of making a false statement to the FBI, prosecutors said.
A real estate developer, Charles Cui, is charged in the indictment for allegedly steering private legal work into Burke’s firm, Klafter & Burke, which specialized in seeking property tax reductions for corporate clients.
Cui, 48, of Lake Forest, is charged with one count of federal program bribery, three counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity and one count of making a false statement to the FBI, prosecutors said.
Racketeering, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to commit extortion are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said. Federal program bribery is punishable by up to 10 years.
Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot is calling on Burke to resign after the federal indictment accused him of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion.
Burke is a 50-year veteran of the City Council, making him one of the most powerful in its history. However Lightfoot, who was elected on a reform platform, says the indictment shows Burke used his position in government to enrich himself.
Alderman Burke released the following statement:
"For over 50 years, Ed Burke has served the citizens of the 14th Ward and the City of Chicago honorably and tirelessly. His accomplishments on behalf of the community and his constituents are notable and many.
Any suggestion that Alderman Burke abused his position as a public official for personal gain is simply not true.
The charges are unfounded and not based on actual evidence. We welcome the opportunity to present the complete picture and all the facts to a jury. We are confident that when that happens, Ed Burke will be vindicated."
Mayor Lori Lightfoot released the following statement:
"The allegations in this superseding indictment are alarming. The indictment alleges that Ald. Burke used his position and the tools of government to facilitate a criminal enterprise to enrich himself and cheat the residents of this city. No official in this city — elected or appointed — should ever profit from his or her office. Given the serious nature of the allegations, and particularly the allegations that he abused his position as chairman of the Finance committee, Alderman Burke must resign immediately. Given the serious criminal liability he faces, Alderman Burke can no longer continue to do his job honorably or effectively. It is in the best interests of all that he step aside so that the residents of the 14th ward can be properly represented.
I have also directed the City's Corporation Counsel to investigate whether any current city employees or vendors were complicit in facilitating the crimes alleged in the superseding indictment. If so, we will not hesitate to take decisive actions against anyone whose conduct violated any laws or ethical rules."