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Corruption roundup

Friday, Nov 1, 2019

* Tribune

State Rep. Luis Arroyo’s foray into the shady world of sweepstakes machines is at the center of the federal bribery case alleging he agreed to pay off a state senator in exchange for support on legislation that would benefit the largely unregulated industry.

Now other players linked to the alleged scheme are emerging, including businessman James Weiss, the son-in-law of former Cook County assessor and county Democratic Party boss Joseph Berrios, and an ex-Chicago cop who was fired for consorting with a drug trafficker, the Chicago Tribune has confirmed through state records and a source with knowledge of the probe.

The FBI raided Weiss’ business offices Friday after the charges were filed against Arroyo under seal, the source told the Tribune.

State business records show Weiss is connected to the former cop, John Adreani, through a complex web of corporations, many of which list the same address in a south suburban strip mall as their headquarters.

This is a really good story, so go read the whole thing.

* Another intriguing story from Tim Novak at the Sun-Times

Alexander S. Pissios, president of Chicago’s largest movie studio, had gone bankrupt but was still more than $1 million in debt when federal agents showed up three years ago.

They gave him a choice: He could go to prison for bankruptcy fraud, or he could help bring down one of the city’s top labor bosses, John Coli Sr. of the Teamsters union. Pissios, the head of Cinespace Chicago Film Studio, grabbed the deal.

Nearly five years after his 2011 bankruptcy, Pissios began giving authorities a rundown of the $1 million-plus he owed to a mortgage company, a scrap-metal dealer and a trucking magnate — debts that somehow have been erased now that he has become a cooperating witness, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.

Pissios hadn’t made any payments on his mortgage for eight years while fighting Citibank’s lawsuit to foreclose on his family’s palatial home in Hawthorn Woods to collect more than $850,000.

He also owed $75,000 to a South Side scrap dealer who had put up $400,000 to convert the former Ryerson Steel plant into Cinespace.

On top of that, the movie mogul had a $70,000 gambling tab — a debt he said he’d been unable to cut into even after making monthly payments for more than four years to the owner of a trucking company who was on the board of directors of Evergreen Bank in Oak Brook.

Again, go read the whole thing. Lots of fascinating strands.

* AP

President Donald Trump has again broached the idea of freeing former Illinois governor and one-time “Celebrity Apprentice” contestant Rod Blagojevich from a Colorado federal prison, where he is in his seventh year of a 14-year prison term for political corruption.

Trump asked for a show of hands at a fundraiser at Chicago’s Trump International Hotel of those who supported clemency for the 62-year-old Democrat. Most of the 200 to 300 attendees raised their hands, The Wall Street Journal reported, citing several people at Monday’s event.

On the same day, Trump told Chicago’s WLS-TV that — despite bringing up the possibility of freeing Blagojevich in August and then appearing to back away from the idea — Blagojevich shouldn’t abandon hope of an early release.

“No, he should not at all give up hope, at all,” Trump said. “We are looking at it.”

From that Wall Street Journal story

A trio of Republican congressmen at the back of the room was firmly opposed, the people said. […]

“He made the statement, and I looked at him and went, ‘No,’” Rep. Mike Bost said in an interview Wednesday. “And then he asked the crowd, ‘Well, who thinks we should?’” Mr. Bost said, prompting the show of hands. […]

At the Chicago event, however, nearly all of the 200 to 300 people present raised their hands in support of clemency, said Michael Alfaro, a Trump fundraiser who sold tickets to and attended the event. About 15 hands went up in opposition, he said, mainly from lawmakers and their aides.

* Going back to the Arroyo case

Within a week of his arrest on bribery charges and subsequent not guilty plea, state Rep. Luis Arroyo’s colleagues in the Illinois House will meet to discuss if he should be removed from office.

Members of an Illinois House Special Investigating Committee will meet for the first time Friday in Chicago to review Arroyo’s federal bribery charges.

Arroyo, D-Chicago, was arrested last week and has pleaded not guilty. Prosecutors allege Arroyo bribed an unnamed state senator who was wearing a wire for federal investigators. After Arroyo’s indictment, House leaders from both parties called on him to resign. Because he hasn’t resigned, they launched a special investigating committee.

University of Illinois at Springfield politics professor Kent Redfield said he expected lawmakers to act swiftly. […]

Redfield said Arroyo could resign, which would make the committee moot. If that doesn’t happen, Redfield said he expected lawmakers to move quickly to expel Arroyo with a resolution that could be voted on by the full House.

Subscribers know more.

* Speaking of Arroyo, remember this guy?

Former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos told a joint congressional task force last year the FBI asked him in January 2017 to wear a wire to secretly record Joseph Mifsud, the man who told Papadopoulos the Russians had “dirt” on former Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. […]

His first meeting was on Jan. 27, 2017, with FBI agent Curtis Heide. It was during this meeting that the special counsel would later accuse him of lying to the FBI. He was convicted of providing false statements later that year.

FBI Special Agent Curtis Heide is the complainant in the case against Arroyo.

* Related…

* Lawmaker proposes penalty enhancements for elected officials convicted of crimes

- Posted by Rich Miller        

16 Comments
  1. - Politix - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 10:19 am:

    Longtime readers may recall Arroyo as one of the key players in Quinn’s Neighborhood Recovery Initiative.


  2. - Donnie Elgin - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 10:20 am:

    Strip clubs, $571,000 in duffel bags, shell
    valet parking companies, ripping off unions, $150,000 in campaign contributions, and crooked cops on the take. Illinois looks more and more like a mafia operation rather than a state.


  3. - City Zen - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 10:27 am:

    My kingdom for an honest scrap dealer.


  4. - lakeside - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 10:33 am:

    ==nearly all of the 200 to 300 people present raised their hands==

    Letting a corrupt Dem out of prison to own the libs. Very cool.

    Also, I’m shocked to learn that Joe Berrios’ family might be tied up in all this shady gambling stuff. Remind me, who does he lobby for again?


  5. - Cheryl44 - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 10:36 am:

    He couldn’t call the city what he normally does while he was here. So he brought up the only thing he knows about, that guy with the hair who was on that TV show he was on too. Now that he’s back in DC he’ll forget what he said here.


  6. - anonomoose - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 11:00 am:

    I’m neither a fan of Trump nor Blago, but dangling this along to me is a bit cruel to Blago’s daughters. Just do it or don’t.


  7. - SSL - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 11:09 am:

    Do we just elect corrupt people, are is the temptation so great once in office that they become corrupt? Happens to people on both side of the aisle. What a joke Illinois has become.


  8. - Northsider - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 11:13 am:

    anonomoose @ 11 a.m.: The cruelty is the point with Trump. Always has been, always will be.


  9. - Jocko - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 11:16 am:

    ==dangling this along to me is a bit cruel to Blago’s daughters==

    Blago can express contrition (and, more importantly, name names) anytime he wants. The fact that he’s done neither (while dragging his wife and daughters through the mud) says it all.


  10. - ZC - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 11:24 am:

    George Papadopoulos is now saying he will run for Rep Katie Hill’s vacant California House seat. At least he would be their problem.


  11. - Three Dimensional Checkers - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 11:36 am:

    That Collage LLC seems like a shell company. I wonder if it exists for any reasons other than to hand out campaign contributions.

    This all reminds me of one of my favorite Wire quotes: “But you start to follow the money, and you don’t know where the [expletive] its gonna take you.”


  12. - NoGifts - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 11:37 am:

    President Trump probably has his personal lawyer talking to Blago because he needs a favor first. /s


  13. - Crime watcher - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 11:44 am:

    Did anyone see the report of a little girl that was shot while trick or treating in Chicago?

    Maybe law enforcement is too busy chasing the Moe and Larry’s of the world, instead of trying to stop the shootings?


  14. - Truth is Stranger - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 12:08 pm:

    I can’t wait for the “Free Rod” t-shirts and bumper stickers to start showing up at Trump events.


  15. - Looking down the Road - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 12:41 pm:

    ssl - == What a joke Illinois has become.== Been this way for a long, long time.


  16. - JoanP - Friday, Nov 1, 19 @ 1:05 pm:

    =The cruelty is the point with Trump. Always has been, always will be.=

    No, I don’t agree. He doesn’t care enough to be cruel. The point with Trump is deflection. He starts talking about “looking at” commuting Blago’s sentence whenever he needs us to look somewhere other than his own misdees.


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