City Council

Ald. Ed Burke Faces Federal Racketeering, Bribery Charges

The 14-count indictment alleges that Burke used his position to steer business to his private law firm

In a new 14-count federal indictment, authorities alleged Thursday that Ald. Ed Burke used his office to solicit and receive bribes and business for his private law firm from companies with business before the city of Chicago.

Burke, who was already facing federal extortion charges, now faces charges that he tried to obtain "bribes and unlawful personal financial advantage," according to new documents released Thursday.

Mayor Lori Lightfoot called the allegations "alarming" in a statement Thursday and called for Burke's resignation.

"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," she said.

Long-time Burke aide Peter J. Andrews and Chicago real estate developer Charles Cui were also named in the indictment, which was returned in U.S. District Court in Chicago on Thursday. 

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According to the indictment, Burke allegedly was involved in plans to accept bribes in connection with the Old Post Office project and used his official position to stymie renovations on a Burger King restaurant in his 14th Ward. The indictment also alleges that he threatened to oppose an increase in admission fees for an unnamed Chicago museum after it failed to respond to his requests for an internship for the child of a friend of the long-time alderman.

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. 

The alderman’s office was raided by federal agents in late 2018, and then his City Hall office was searched by agents in December of that year.

Alderman Ed Burke is now linked to a second federal case involving corruption at City Hall. NBC 5’s Lexi Sutter has the details. 

In a press release, the Department of Justice lists 14 counts filed against Burke, including eight counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity, which has a maximum sentence of five years in prison on each count. 

Burke also faces two counts of attempted extortion and one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, as well as one count of racketeering and two counts of federal program bribery. 

Despite the indictments and the increased scrutiny from federal agents, Burke won re-election to his aldermanic seat in February.

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.

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