The Chicago Syndicate: Details of Alderman Ed Burke Indictment on Federal Racketeering and Bribery Charges in Connection with Alleged Corruption Schemes

Friday, May 31, 2019

Details of Alderman Ed Burke Indictment on Federal Racketeering and Bribery Charges in Connection with Alleged Corruption Schemes

A federal grand jury charged in a detailed 59-page indictment City of Chicago Alderman Edward M. Burke on racketeering and bribery charges for allegedly abusing his position to solicit and extort private legal work and other benefits from companies and individuals with business before the city.

The 19-count indictment accuses Burke of corruptly soliciting work for his private law firm from companies involved in redevelopment projects at the Old Main Post Office in downtown Chicago and a fast food restaurant in Burke’s ward on the Southwest Side. It also alleges that he corruptly attempted to assist a business owner with a development on the Northwest Side shortly after the business owner told Burke that he would engage Burke’s law firm. The firm, Klafter & Burke, specialized in seeking property tax reductions for corporate clients.

The charges also allege that Burke threatened to oppose an admission fee increase at the Field Museum of Natural History, because the museum failed to respond to Burke’s inquiry about an internship at the museum for the daughter of former Alderman Terry Gabinski, a friend of Burke's.

The indictment was returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago. It charges Burke, 75, of Chicago, 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.

The indictment also charges two other individuals: Peter J. Andrews, an employee in Burke’s 14th Ward office; and Charles Cui, a Chicago real estate developer. Andrews is accused of conspiring with Burke to extort the operator of the fast food restaurant, while Cui allegedly steered private legal work to Burke in an effort to influence and reward the alderman in connection with permitting and tax increment financing for the Northwest Side development.  Andrews, 69, of Chicago, 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. 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.

Arraignments for Burke and Andrews are scheduled for June 4, 2019, at 10:00 a.m., before U.S. Magistrate Judge Jeffrey Cole. Arraignment for Cui has not yet been scheduled.

The indictment was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the FBI.  The City of Chicago Inspector General’s Office and the Amtrak Office of Inspector General provided valuable assistance. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Amarjeet Bhachu, Diane MacArthur, Matthew Kutcher, Sarah Streicker and Timothy Chapman.

The public is reminded that an indictment is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt.

Racketeering, attempted extortion, and conspiracy to commit extortion are each punishable by up to 20 years in prison.  Federal program bribery is punishable by up to ten years.  Using interstate commerce to promote unlawful activity and making a false statement to the FBI are each punishable by up to five years.  If convicted, the Court must impose reasonable sentences under federal sentencing statutes and the advisory U.S. Sentencing Guidelines.

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