Ex-Sen. Martin Sandoval Pleads Guilty to Bribery, Tax Offense

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Former Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty in federal court Tuesday to bribery and tax offenses, striking a deal with prosecutors in exchange for his cooperation.

Sandoval pleaded guilty to one count of federal program bribery and one count of filing a false income tax return, federal prosecutors said in a statement.

The bribery charge carries a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison, while the tax offense is punishable by up to three years, authorities said.

As part of his plea deal, Sandoval "has agreed to fully and truthfully cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon by the U.S. Attorney’s Office," prosecutors said in a statement, adding that they have requested his sentencing be delayed "until his cooperation is complete."

Sandoval admitted in his plea deal that he solicited and accepted money from an unnamed individual affiliated with a Chicago-area red-light camera company in exchange for his assistance in blocking legislation harmful to the red-light camera industry, according to the U.S. attorney's office. He also admitted to accepting money from others in return for using his position as a state senator to benefit their business interests.

Prosecutors say Sandoval admitted to accepting more than $250,000 in bribes in a scheme involving at least five people. Sandoval also pleaded guilty to a charge that he filed income tax returns that under-reported his income between 2012 and 2017 - reducing obligation by more than $72,000 owed to the IRS and more than $13,000 owed to the state. The U.S. attorney's office said Sandoval agreed to pay back those taxes.

Federal agents executed search warrants at multiple locations tied to Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval Tuesday.

Sandoval - who chaired of the Senate Transportation Committee - stepped down from his officer earlier this month, announcing his resignation in November, more than two months after federal agents raided his offices in suburban Cicero and at the Illinois State Capitol.

Sandoval's resignation took effect on Jan. 1. He announced his decision to step down in a November letter, saying "with a heavy heart" that the action was "necessary in order to proceed without distraction to the important work that needs to be accomplished for working families throughout the state of Illinois in the future."

Federal agents sought items "related to any official action taken in exchange for a benefit" as well as information on "any business owned or controlled by" Sandoval when they raided his Springfield office in September, according to an unredacted search warrant later released by the Illinois Senate.

Authorities were also searching for items related to at least 70 separate people or entities, including red light camera company SafeSpeed.

The warrant also authorized agents to seize anything related to five officials with the Illinois Department of Transportation, also named only as "Official" A, B, D, E and F.

No individuals connected to IDOT or SafeSpeed have been charged with wrongdoing.

Agents also sought items related to ComEd and Exelon or any employee of those businesses - particularly four specific, unnamed representatives referred to simply as "Exelon Official" A, B, C and D.

Named in the warrant as well was Rick Heidner and his company Gold Rush Gaming, a video gambling operator with dozens of locations across the Chicago area and Illinois.

Agents sought additional materials in connection with Cook County Commissioner and McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski, whose office was subsequently raided two days after Sandoval's.

Berwyn alderman and architect Cesar Santoy - who was appointed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker to the Illinois Toll Highway Authority Board of Directors earlier this year - was also named in the warrant, along with his construction firm.

Until his resignation, Sandoval had represented the 11th Senate District - encompassing parts of Chicago's Southwest Side and the surrounding suburbs - since 2003.

Democratic leaders selected freshman state Rep. Celina Villanueva to fill the vacancy earlier this month.

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