Alderman’s Former Chief of Staff Pleads Guilty to Accepting $7,500 Bribe in Exchange for Letters of Support for Liquor License
CHICAGO—A former chief of staff for an unnamed Chicago alderman pleaded guilty today to accepting a $7,500 cash bribe in exchange for obtaining the alderman’s letters of support for a license to sell alcohol in the alderman’s ward. The defendant, CURTIS V. THOMPSON, JR., accepted the bribe from an individual who claimed he wanted to open a convenience store but was actually a cooperating witness in an FBI undercover investigation.
Thompson, 63, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to federal program bribery. According to court documents, Thompson accepted 75 $100 bills in a Christmas card that the cooperating witness gave him at the alderman’s holiday party on Dec. 19, 2013. Thompson admitted today that he used the money he received to pay personal expenses.
Thompson faces a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine. A written plea agreement states that the government anticipates a United States Sentencing Guidelines range of 12 to 18 months in prison. Thompson was arrested in February of this year and is free on bond while awaiting sentencing, which U.S. District Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan scheduled for March 17, 2015, in Federal Court.
Thompson’s plea agreement and court documents describe a series of telephone conversations and in-person meetings between the cooperating witness and other individuals, including a meeting with Thompson on Oct. 7, 2013, in the alderman’s ward office. During the meeting, the cooperating witness showed Thompson a note, which stated, “$7,500 to Ald for L.O.S.” Thompson understood the note to mean payment of $7,500 in exchange for a letter of support from the alderman for a liquor license for a store to be opened in the ward. After seeing the note, Thompson nodded his head and said “Okay. I understand.”
At a meeting with Thompson, the alderman, and another individual in the ward office on Oct. 29, 2013, the cooperating witness handed the alderman a note, which stated, “$12k to you for letter of support[.]” Thompson admitted that he was passed that note and that he understood that the cooperating witness was offering to pay money for a letter of support from the alderman for a liquor license. A third meeting was held on Nov. 19, 2013, at which the cooperating witness explained he was going through the process of becoming a convenience store franchisee.
Over the next few weeks, Thompson prepared two letters of support on the alderman’s letterhead and signed the alderman’s name, after seeking and obtaining the alderman’s approval to write the letters. Thompson knew that the cooperating witness had picked up the letters of support from the alderman’s ward office and understood they would be used to obtain a liquor license for the proposed store. The bribe payment was exchanged a short time later.
The guilty plea was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Megan Church and Bethany Biesenthal.