Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleads guilty to tax fraud, bribery charges

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Wednesday, January 29, 2020
Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleads guilty to tax fraud, bribery charges
Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges Tuesday.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- A former state senator pleaded guilty to bribery and tax fraud charges Tuesday in federal court.

Martin Sandoval, 56, wiped away tears as he pleaded guilty to taking thousands of dollars in bribes, some of which have been linked to a Chicago area red light company.

"I'm deeply ashamed of my actions. I take full responsibility and apologize to the people of Illinois, most importantly to the constituents I served over the last 17 years," he said.

READ: Indictment against former State Senator Martin Sandoval

Sandoval had an 11 a.m. arraignment in the Dirksen Federal Building. In addition to a bribery charge, he also faced a charge for filing a false tax return. The bribery charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison, and the tax fraud is punishable by up to three years, according to a news release from the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

The longtime Chicago Democrat was charged Monday in a two-page document called an information.

As part of a plea agreement, Sandoval has agreed to fully and truthfully cooperate in any matter in which he is called upon by the U.S. Attorney's Office.

Sandoval admitted in the plea agreement that he solicited and accepted financial and other benefits from an individual affiliated with a Chicago-area red-light camera company, in return for Sandoval using his official position as a state senator to block legislation harmful to the red-light-camera industry, the release said. Sandoval also admitted he engaged in corrupt activities with other public officials and accepted money from other individuals in return for using his official position to attempt to benefit those individuals and their business interests. Sandoval admitted accepting more than $250,000 in bribes as part of criminal activity that involved more than five participants, officials said.

Of the $250,000, Sandoval said he took at least $70,000 from a Chicago red light company he identified as SafeSpeed. He admitted to getting paid $5,000 a month to act as a "protector," to either push the use of red lights or oppose legislation that would hurt the company.

RELATED: Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval charged with bribery, filing false tax return in red light camera scheme

Safespeed said the person who was dealing with Sandoval on behalf of the company was not authorized by Safespeed to engage in illegal activity. A written statement from Safespeed reads in part:

"It appears both individuals committed crimes without SafeSpeed's knowledge and in violation not only of the law but of SafeSpeed's culture. We are shocked and saddened by that allegation. "

U.S. Attorney John Lausch would not name the other public officials or individuals Sandoval accepted bribes from in his position as a state senator, but the former lawmaker also served as a powerful chairman for the Illinois State Senate Transportation Committee.


Former state Sen. Martin Sandoval Sandoval accepted more than $250,000 in bribes, U.S. Attorney John Lausch said.

In addition to the bribery, Sandoval admitted he willfully caused his accountant to file income tax returns that Sandoval knew underreported his income from 2012 to 2017. Sandoval admitted in the plea agreement that his tax offenses caused a total loss to the IRS of at least $72,441, and a loss to the Illinois Department of Revenue of at least $13,384.38, which he has agreed to pay.

The two charges come a few months after federal officials raided Sandoval's Chicago home and offices.

RELATED: State Sen. Martin Sandoval offices, home raided by FBI

Federal agents raided the offices and home of State Senator Martin Sandoval (D-IL 11) Tuesday.

The former state senator is connected to other ongoing corruption cases as well. His cooperation will likely make others in Springfield nervous.

Gov. JB Pritzker called Sandoval's alleged behavior "utterly repellent" on Monday. The governor also called for ethics reform.

"It's not only a job for the federal government, it's a job for the government of the state of Illinois. We need to pass new ethics legislation, we need to go after these people, we need to scare off the people who think that they should hold public office to make a buck for themselves," Pritzker said.

RELATED: Illinois General Assembly to tackle ethics reform as Martin Sandoval pleads guilty to corruption charges

Other Democrats, including Senate President Don Harmon, are calling for ethics reforms as lawmakers returned to Springfield Tuesday. In the past year, Sandoval is the fourth elected official in Illinois to face federal charges.

Sandoval faces up to 13 years in prison, however the federal government is likely ask for less time if Sandoval lives up to his plea agreement to fully cooperate with the officials. The government requested that Sandoval's sentencing be delayed until his cooperation is complete. U.S. District Judge Andrea R. Wood did not immediately set a sentencing date.