Former State Senator Thomas Cullerton pleads guilty to embezzling Teamsters funds

Former state senator Thomas Cullerton pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of embezzlement, admitting he improperly took more than $240,000 from Teamsters Joint Council 25.

Cullerton could face a jail term of more than a year, a prosecutor told U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman during a hearing on Tuesday. Cullerton also agreed to pay $248,828 in restitution. His sentencing hearing is set for June 21.

Before entering his plea, Cullerton told the judge that he had spent the last four or five months working nights and mornings in a warehouse. He acknowledged that he had previously been employed as an Illinois state senator.

Cullerton’s guilty plea comes during a turbulent few weeks at Dirksen’s federal courthouse. Federal prosecutors secured the former Ald’s conviction on February 14. Patrick Daley Thompson accused of cheating on his taxes and lying to regulators. He is the grandson and nephew of Chicago’s two most senior mayors.

Then, last week, a federal grand jury indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, who is charged with racketeering conspiracy and is due for arraignment on Wednesday.

Cullerton, a member of a family whose political fortunes here date back to just before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871, has been indicted since August 2019. But he kept his job until last month, resigning just before his lawyer revealed his intention to plead guilty. .

The charges against Cullerton came just days after former Chicago Teamsters boss John T. Coli pleaded guilty to extortion of around $325,000 in cash payments he received of Cinespace Chicago Film Studios between 2014 and 2017. Coli also agreed at the time to cooperate with the federal government. prosecutors. He was not convicted.

The indictment against Cullerton revolved around Cullerton’s role as an organizer for Teamsters Joint Council 25. He got that job after his former employer, Hostess Brands, closed in 2012. Coli told prosecutors that He had arranged Cullerton’s hiring as an organizer “but did not believe the job was legitimate,” according to court documents.

Cullerton was accused of collecting $188,320 in salary, bonuses and cell phone and vehicle allowances from the Teamsters between March 2013 and February 2016, as well as $64,068 in health and pension contributions, while doing little or no work for the union. He was also charged with collecting $21,678 in reimbursed medical claims.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet Bhachu wrote in a November court filing that Cullerton “was a virtual absence from work for three years” and “was invariably unavailable” to his supervisors. Bhachu described Cullerton as “a ghost worker” who “was effectively on permanent vacation”.

“Revelingly, one of the union supervisors didn’t even realize that [Cullerton] had been on the payroll for three years,” Bhachu wrote.

But Cullerton was also fired from that job in early 2016, according to defense attorney Daniel Collins. And in his own court filing last October, Collins argued that prosecutors offered “no clarity” on the difference “between when an underperforming employee should be terminated or charged.”

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