Former state Sen. Thomas Colerton faces a possible federal prison sentence on Tuesday

Former state Sen. Thomas Colerton is facing a possible federal prison sentence Tuesday for pocketing more than a quarter million dollars in pay and benefits from the Teamsters union despite working little or no work.

Cullerton, 52, a Democrat from Villa Park, pleaded guilty to embezzlement in March, two weeks after abruptly resigning. Prosecutors have asked for a prison sentence of up to 18 months, while their lawyers have requested a period of probation.

Cullerton’s sentencing will take place in person before US District Judge Robert Gettleman, the first he appeared before the pandemic at the Dirksen US Courthouse nearly three years ago.

Colerton is one of seven former members of the Illinois General Assembly who have been charged with federal crimes during that time.

Last month, his former colleague, ex-state Representative Luis Arroyo, was sentenced to nearly five years in prison for trying to bribe then-state Sen. Terry Links to support a law that expanded sweepstakes gaming machines.

Meanwhile, Link has pleaded guilty to unrelated tax charges and is awaiting sentencing. His former Senate aide, Martin Sandoval, was convicted of taking a bribe from a red-light camera company executive, but died of COVID-19 complications before being sentenced.

Also indicted were former state representative Edward Acevedo, who pleaded guilty to failing to file a tax return and was sentenced to six months in prison, and John O’Sullivan, a lifelong state representative who served the same term. He was convicted of conspiracy to bribe at a red light. The camera probe that framed Sandoval. O’Sullivan awaits sentencing.

State Representative Annazette Collins, the seventh former legislator, has pleaded not guilty to charges of lying on her personal income tax and failing to file tax returns for her lobbying and consulting firm.

Asking Gettleman to sentence Colerton to a prison sentence of up to a year and a half, prosecutors filed in a court earlier this month that former Teamsters boss John Cooley Sr. told investigators that he had given Colerton some of his own money. was placed in a position to “as one”. In favor of Senator A at the request of Senator A.”

“Coli knew it was wrong to pay Colerton because he was a ghostly payroller,” wrote assistant US attorneys Amarjit Bhachu and Erica Sisikilla. “Only when Cooley became concerned that the Independent Review Board, an investigative body within the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, would discover that Colerton was a ghost payroller, did he order Colerton to be fired.”

The state senator who made the recommendation was not named in the filing.

The prosecution also revealed for the first time that after being fired by Cooley, Colerton moved to “getting another non-working job” with a video gaming company, which made him the company’s sole salaried salesperson. , which previously worked for $1,000 a week, which was later doubled to $2,000 a week.

“Even though his salary was doubled by the video gaming company, Colerton did little business for the video gaming company,” the memo said. “He was kept on his payroll until the current investigation ended.”

Meanwhile, Colerton’s attorneys have asked Gettleman for a probation sentence, writing in his own filing in court that while he understands the “public hatred” surrounding the high-profile case, he can “set things right with the teamsters.” Committed to creating and working hard “for his family and community.”

“He will forever bear the stigma, public embarrassment, and the financial and other costs associated with this felony,” wrote attorney Daniel Collins.

Collins said that Colerton “understood that he was not meeting the expectations of the job” and had to resign once he realized how difficult it would be to balance the additional duties with his roles as legislator and father. Should have given

“His decision not to resign at that time and will haunt him for the rest of his life,” Collins wrote.

According to the indictment, Cooley conspired with Colerton to offer the newly-elected senator a job as an organizer in 2013, apparently through campaigns to attract new membership, supporting union picket lines, and participating in union events. for taking.

According to prosecutors, for the next three years, the two ignored complaints from supervisors when Colerton failed to show up for work, effectively placing him on “permanent leave”. Prosecutors wrote in their sentencing filings, Colerton, as well as others in the union, apparently understood that he could get away with working “just because he was an elected official,” without being paid.

In total, Coulerton was accused of fraudulently receiving approximately $250,000 in salaries, bonuses and other perks from the Teamsters between 2013 and 2016, according to prosecutors, which included cellphone and vehicle allowances as well as health and pension contributions. Were.

Per his petition, Colerton used the payments to pay for personal expenses, including his mortgage, utilities and groceries.

The charges against Colerton came three days after Colley pleaded guilty to extortion charges and agreed to cooperate with federal officials. Per the settlement of his plea, Coley recovered a total of $325,000 from Alex Pisios, president of the Cinespace Chicago film studio on the West Side, by threatening to stop the union’s work.

With his collaboration against Coulerton now complete, Cooley’s sentencing is set for October 26.

Colerton, formerly the Village President of Villa Park, is a member of Chicago’s longest-running political dynasty and was first elected to the state Senate in 2012. He is a distant cousin of former Senate President John Colerton, who abruptly stepped down in 2020. ,

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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