Chicago Ald. Carrie M. Austin (34th) and her chief of staff face bribery charges in a new federal indictment alleging they conspired to receive home improvements from construction contractors who were seeking city assistance for a development project in Austin’s South Side Ward.
Austin, 72, is now one of three sitting members of the City Council under federal indictment, along with Ed Burke and Patrick Daley Thompson.
The latest in a string of federal public corruption charges also means the City Council’s two most senior members are under federal indictment. Austin, who was appointed in 1994, is second in seniority to Burke, who was hit with a racketeering indictment two years ago.
Austin is charged with one count of bribery conspiracy, two counts of using interstate facilities to promote bribery, and one count of lying to the FBI. Her chief of staff, Chester Wilson Jr., 55, is charged with bribery conspiracy, two counts of using interstate facilities to promote bribery and one count of theft of government funds.
Arraignments for Austin and Wilson have not yet been set. Austin could not be immediately reached for comment. Wilson hung up on a reporter calling for comment Thursday afternoon.
The new indictment revolves around plans for a $50 million residential development in Austin’s ward. In 2016, the owner of the construction company that planned the development allegedly provided home improvements, furniture and appliances for Austin’s home, as well as similar benefits for rental properties owned by Wilson.
The owner allegedly provided those benefits in order to influence Austin and Wilson.
The feds say a contractor on the development project paid an invoice for $5,250 in June 2017 to cover part of the cost of kitchen cabinets at Austin’s home, falsely claiming the cabinets were for the development.
In July 2017, Austin also allegedly accepted an offer from a contractor to pay for two “brand new” and “expensive” sump pumps, and to have a relative of the contractor buy and install a new dehumidifier.
Wilson also allegedly sought benefits from a contractor on the project, who said he would pay for part of a new HVAC system at Wilson’s property because, “you help me a lot, and I’ll help you.”
Federal agents raided Austin’s ward office June 19, 2019. She allegedly lied to the FBI that same day, denying she received “anything” from the developer on the project other than a cake.
This is a developing story. Please check back for more details.