Ex-Chicago Ald. Ed Burke tried to 'shake down' owners of Burger King in his ward: new testimony

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Thursday, December 7, 2023
Burke tried to 'shake down' owners of Burger King: new testimony
Former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke tried to "shake down" the owners of a Burger King in his ward, according to new testimony.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The court heard testimony on Wednesday that former Chicago Alderman Ed Burke allegedly tried to "shake down" the owners of a Burger King in his ward.

Former Burger King executive Jeffrey MacDonald walked out of federal court following his testimony in the case against Burke on Wednesday.

Our latest coverage of this story can be found here.

In 2017, MacDonald was in charge of a Burger King remodeling project in the former alderman's ward. MacDonald went to Burke's office with the expectation that Burke would easily sign off on the improvement project.

Instead, MacDonald told jurors, the powerful alderman appeared to be "irritated." MacDonald said Burke would not sign off until the company addressed truck parking and prostitution issues in the restaurant parking lot.

In addition, McDonald testified, Burke suggested the company should make donation to the nearby Greater Chicago Food Depository.

Tri-City Foods owns the 40th and Pulaski Burger King. The company is owned by the Houston-based Dhanani family. MacDonald said Burke also insisted on meeting with the Dhananis.

MacDonald said as the meeting wrapped up, "Alderman Burke asked me who did the company's property tax work."

In an email to Zohaib Dhanani, summarizing the meeting, MacDonald used the word "shakedown."

The Burger King scheme is one of four scenarios involved in the racketeering, bribery and extortion case against the 79-year-old. Burke is accused of shutting down the Burger King remodeling project over a driveway permit issue while trying to steer property tax appeal business to his private law firm, Klafter & Burke.

On Tuesday, prosecutors played a secretly-recorded phone conversation between Zohaib Dhanani and Burke. The former alderman mentioned permits and his law firm in the same sentence.

"We were gonna talk about the real estate tax representation, and you're gonna have somebody get in touch with me, so we can expedite your permits," Burke said.

A few months after the city's building department granted the restaurant a permit to begin construction, Burke's office shut the project down because the company had failed to get a driveway permit.

On Wednesday afternoon, Hal Hutchinson, an architect with the building department, testified that the building department, not an alderman, has the authority to shut a project down, and the city never issued a stop work order.