Chicago Ald. Carrie Austin and her Chief of Staff Chester Wilson Jr. are both facing federal bribery charges after they allegedly received home improvements and other materials from construction companies seeking city assistance for a project on the city’s Far South Side.
According to the indictment, a construction company undertook plans for a nearly $50 million residential development in Austin’s ward in 2014. Under an agreement with the city, the company was responsible for making various improvements within that project, and was eligible to receive more than $10 million in financing and payments from the city.
Beginning in 2016, the feds allege that Austin and Wilson were both provided with “personal benefits” by the owner of the company and other contractors in an effort to influence them in their official responsibilities.
Austin allegedly received home improvements, furniture and appliances for her residence, while Wilson allegedly received home improvement materials and services for rental properties that he owns.
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According to the indictment, Austin allegedly received new kitchen cabinets, which were supposed to be installed at the new residential development in her ward, as well as new bathroom tiles, a new dehumidifier and "brand new" and "expensive" sump pumps for her home.
Wilson allegedly received a discounted HVAC unit and granite countertops for one of his investment properties.
In return, Austin and Wilson allegedly authorized the expenditure of “Aldermanic menu funds” to benefit the construction company for the improvements they were required to make within the development.
Each Chicago alderman is provided access to approximately $1.32 million in those funds annually to spend on infrastructure maintenance and improvements within their wards, according to the indictment.
Austin also allegedly coordinated with the construction company’s owner to seek the release of TIF funds and other payments, according to the indictment.
According to a press release from the United States Department of Justice, Austin and Wilson were each charged with one count of conspiring to use interstate facilities to promote bribery and two counts of using interstate facilities to promote bribery.
Austin also faces a charge of making materially false statements to the FBI, while Wilson faces a charge of theft of government funds.
The charge alleging that Wilson stole government funds stems from a separate scheme to purchase SNAP benefits at a discount, according to the press release. Wilson allegedly bought a SNAP card by paying cash to the recipient, and paid less than the face value of the card, according to the indictment.
Arraignment dates have not yet been set for Austin and Wilson.