Fitzgerald's Parting Shot: New corruption charges

June 29, 2012 5:07:42 AM PDT
The day before acclaimed federal prosecutor Patrick Fitzgerald wraps up his government career, he has fired a final volley of public corruption charges at seven people.

One of them, former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio Medrano, is making a return appearance in a federal corruption case having done prison time in the notorious Operation Silver Shovel more than 15 years ago.

In addition to Medrano, new public corruption charges were leveled Thursday afternoon against former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno. Both ex-elected officials were arrested on corruption charges, in a case that involves five additional defendants.

According to the U.S. Attorney's office, Moreno, Medrano, and three Chicago area businessmen used bribery and kickbacks to sell bandages to public hospitals, including Cook County's John H. Stroger Hospital. The federal charges also include an alleged effort by Medrano and two other businessmen, including James Barta, the owner of a Nebraska-based provider of prescription drug services that claims 11 million subscribers, to use bribery and kickbacks to obtain business from an unnamed out-of-state hospital system.

Thursday's complaint also cites Moreno's alleged acceptance of $5,000 as part of a bribe to ensure development of a waste transfer station in suburban Cicero while he sat on a town economic development panel.

Medrano, 58, should know his way around the federal courthouse. In 1996 he pleaded guilty in a bribery known as Operation Silver Shovel. As 25th ward alderman, he admitted taking $31,000 in payoffs from FBI mole John Christopher in a sweetheart contract scheme. Medrano was sentenced to 30 months in federal prison.

Medrano was born of Mexican migrant workers and raised in Chicago. He graduated from Northeastern Illinois University and worked on Mayor Richard M. Daley's election campaign in 1988. Daley appointed him to the mayor's commission on Latino affairs, a post he held until seeking the 25th ward aldermanic seat. Medrano won election the city council from that ward in 1991 and he was re-elected in 1995.

Moreno, 59, was the 7th district Cook County commissioner until being ousted in 2010. He is an attorney who currently serves as corporate counsel for the Illinois Energy Aggregation LLC. IEA works with local governments to help secure more affordable electrical service. Moreno "provides expertise to IEA in the area of organizing necessary public meetings, drafting necessary resolutions and overseeing the referendum process" according to the company's website.

A tight lid was kept on the case. While official notice of the arrests and charges was sent out shortly before 1:30 CDT on Thursday, the records were sealed and no names were provided. In a city where news usually leaks as fast as an antique planter, authorities managed to keep the names of the public officials under the radar until their court appearance. The records were unsealed at that time.

The defendants made their initial court appearance in front of U.S. Magistrate Judge Young B. Kim.

Following the court appearance, U.S. Attorney Fitzgerald and other federal law enforcement officials said they would speak at a news conference about the latest public corruption case in Chicago and Cook County.

Read the complaints:

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