Corrupt Chicago banker with ties to Donald Trump loses appeal, faces prison sentence

ByChuck Goudie and Barb Markoff, Christine Tressel and Tom Jones WLS logo
Tuesday, December 12, 2023
Chicago banker with Trump ties loses appeal, faces prison sentence
Former Federal Savings Bank CEO Stephen Calk, who has ties to Donald Trump, has lost his appeal and is facing a prison sentence.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- The ABC 7 I-Team has learned new developments in a corruption case connected to former President Donald Trump's inner circle, and a disgraced Chicago banker found guilty on corruption charges.

Stephen Calk, the founder and former CEO of the Chicago-based Federal Savings Bank, has lost his appeal of a federal conviction for conspiring to bribe his way into a Trump cabinet position.

Legal analysts tell the I-Team it could be the end of a long road for the convicted Chicago banker, and Calk may have to report to prison in the months ahead to serve his sentence.

Early in the Trump presidency, Calk served on the National Economic Advisory Committee, a position prosecutors say he only obtained after approving millions of dollars in loans for Trump's convicted campaign chairman, Paul Manafort.

That wasn't the only quid-pro-quo Calk was hoping for from Manafort.

Court records show investigators found emails from Calk to Manafort, seeking the campaign chairman's assistance in obtaining a more senior position in Trump's administration.

In a document presented at trial as authored by Calk, titled "Perspective Rolls [sic] in the Trump Administration," the banker asked Manafort for one of 10 cabinet secretary, deputy secretary, or under-secretary positions, as well as a number of potential U.S. ambassadorship positions.

The position Calk coveted most of all was secretary of the army, according to records presented at Calk's trial.

In return, Calk approved $16 million in loans for Manafort through his bank, despite many red flags and significant risk factors in Manafort's finances.

Calk was granted an interview at Trump Tower in New York, but was never appointed to any senior position, prosecutors say.

But, in the years that followed, investigators said Calk made "false and misleading statements" to federal regulators, including that he "never desired a position in the presidential administration."

In 2022, a jury found Calk guilty of financial institution bribery and conspiracy to commit financial institution bribery. He was sentenced to one year and a day in prison.

Manafort was also convicted on separate federal crimes.

After Calk's sentence was handed down, he filed an appeal, arguing that the criminal case relied on an unprecedented use of bank bribery statutes.

But a decision handed down by a three-judge appellate panel in New York late last month determined, "Calk's challenges are without merit."

"It's been one losing battle after another for Calk," said former Chicago prosecutor and ABC7 Chief Legal Analyst Gil Soffer. "This now is very much the end of the road."

Calk is now requesting an "en banc" hearing, or hearing by all of the judges in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, to review his case.

Soffer tells the I-Team that request will likely be denied.

"Those are granted in less than 2% of cases," Soffer explained. "And, of course, you can appeal for certiorari, or essentially seek an appeal with the Supreme Court of the United States. Those chances are astonishingly small, so he doesn't have a lot of room to maneuver here."

Attorneys representing Calk had no comment regarding the appellate court's decision.

If Calk had reported to prison for the year-and-a-day sentence he was given last year, he would likely be out by now.

But, those who know him tell the I-Team he believes he is innocent and is willing to pay the legal and personal freight to fight this despite the low odds.