Sunday, May 16, 2021

Chicago political operative for ex-Senator Sandoval pleads guilty to lying about bribe payments

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A political operative with ties to indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th) and the late state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty Tuesday to concealing material information from the FBI.

In doing so, Rudy Acosta Sr., 70, admitted that he made cash payments in order to sway Sandoval, and that he “facilitated bribe payments” to another unnamed official — information he acknowledged he hid from the feds between 2017 and 2019 as he “provided information regarding other individuals’ involvement in criminal activity.”

Acosta also confirmed during a hearing Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland that he has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors in exchange for a potential break at sentencing. As it stands, Acosta faces a likely prison sentence of no more than six months behind bars.

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Acosta’s defense attorney has been clear about Acosta’s intention to plead guilty since the day criminal charges were filed against Acosta in late March. Defense attorney Jeffrey Steinback confirmed then that Acosta planned to plead guilty, and he told the Chicago Sun-Times that “Rudy is doing everything he can to rectify some misjudgments he’s made in the past.”

Under questioning by the FBI between January 2017 and November 2019, Acosta hid the fact that he’d made cash payments to Sandoval while intending to get Sandoval’s support for his business, Power Washing Pros, according to Acosta’s plea agreement.

Acosta also covered up the fact that he and Sandoval received free services, meals and travel from an unnamed individual. That’s according to Acosta’s 17-page plea agreement, which also mentions the bribe payments to an unnamed “public official.”

Though court records do not specifically identify Sandoval, a source has confirmed he is the senator involved in the case.

Acosta has served as one of the most important precinct captains for Burke, who since 2019 has faced a blockbuster racketeering indictment alleging he used his seat on the Chicago City Council to steer business toward his private tax law firm. Burke has pleaded not guilty, and his case has been stalled as lawyers deal with hundreds of pages of pretrial motions.

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Meanwhile, Acosta has acknowledged he had a close relationship with the family of Sandoval, who last year pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges but died in December.

Sandoval admitted in January 2020 that he took a “protector fee” from someone with an interest in the politically connected red-light camera company SafeSpeed. He also admitted he’d engaged in corrupt activity with other public officials and accepted over $250,000 “in bribes as part of criminal activity that involved more than five participants.”

SafeSpeed has not been charged with wrongdoing and has portrayed a former partner in the firm as a rogue actor.

In a separate case, Acosta’s son and namesake has been accused by the feds of bragging about ties to Mexican drug cartels in a case that has been pending since late 2015. A status hearing that had been set in that case for April 1 — a few days after the elder Acosta was charged — has been delayed until July 7.

Acosta also has ties to Mariano “Mario” Martinez, who admitted late in 2019 that he gave more than $6,500 in bribes to public officials in Summit and agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors. Those details came to light when Martinez pleaded guilty in his own federal drug conspiracy case.

A defense attorney for Martinez, who ran Mars Bar in Summit as well as an adjacent car wash, wrote in court records that Martinez had been part of Acosta’s political operation. The defense attorney also indicated that Acosta’s nephew helped the feds snare Martinez in the drug case.

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