A Chicago real estate developer has been indicted in connection with an investigation into Ald. Ed Burke, who was previously charged with attempted extortion in January.
The indictment, which was filed Thursday and does not name Burke directly, alleges Charles Cui bribed a city official for a permit and tax increment financing involving a Northwest Side property.
It cites an unnamed alderman serving in the 14th Ward and as Chairman of the Committee on Finance in 2017. Burke, who has served as 14th Ward alderman for decades, also served as chairman of the powerful City Council Finance Committee at that time.
Burke, the longest-serving alderman in Chicago history, is already facing a charge of attempted extortion for "corruptly soliciting business" for his law firm, federal authorities allege. Burke was indicted on Jan. 3, weeks after federal agents conducted raids at his 14th Ward office and his finance committee suite on Nov. 29, and then again at City Hall on Dec. 13. He went on to win re-election in February.
Authorities claim Burke was using his official position in an attempt to stymie renovations on a restaurant in his 14th Ward – later identified as the Burger King near the scene of the high-profile police shooting of Laquan McDonald – in an alleged effort to direct the company’s business to his own law firm for personal gain.
Burke runs a law firm specializing in property tax appeals, and had previously worked for President Donald Trump on lowering taxes for his namesake Chicago tower. His firm, Klafter & Burke, stopped representing Trump earlier this year. Burke, who first took office in 1969, has previously been subject to scrutiny over potential conflicts of interest, as well as federal investigations over allegations of ghost payrolling. With regard to the January charge of corruption, as he has in the past, Burke has repeatedly denied all allegations of wrongdoing.
Cui, who the indictment said was the "managing member" of a company that owned property at 4901 W. Irving Park Rd. in Chicago, was charged with federal program bribery, using interstate commerce to facilitate bribery and official misconduct.
According to the indictment, Cui sent an email to an unnamed real estate attorney authorities said had represented him in property tax appeals before, saying he wanted Burke to handle his property tax appeal "at least for this year," because he had a "TIF deal going with the City" and needed Burke's "favor for my tif money."
"In addition, I need his help for my zoning etc for my project," the email allegedly read. "He is a powerful broker in City Hall, and I need him now."
The indictment says Cui told authorities he offered business to Burke "just because he is a good tax appeal lawyer."
Burke has long been arguably the most powerful alderman in the city, as chair of the Chicago City Council Committee on Finance, though he resigned from that position after he was indicted.
Prosecutors will likely look to seek an indictment from a grand jury in May, days before he's sworn in to yet another term as alderman.