Bombshell filing details FBI’s two-year probe of alleged corruption by Ald. Daniel Solis
By Jason Meisner, Jeff Coen, Stacy St. Clair, Christy Gutowski
A bombshell court filing made public Wednesday shows the FBI spent more than two years investigating alleged corruption schemes by longtime Ald. Daniel Solis, secretly listening in on thousands of phone calls as the alderman solicited everything from campaign donations to sexual services at a massage parlor.
The 120-page search warrant affidavit was filed under seal in May 2016 and made public after the Chicago Tribune successfully argued in court for its release. It was first obtained in January by the Chicago Sun-Times after it was inadvertently left on the public docket because of a mix-up by the clerk’s office.
The document lays out in exhaustive detail a laundry list of alleged federal crimes the FBI had compiled against Solis by the time he was confronted and agreed to cooperate with the investigation.
In exchange for official action or promises, Solis solicited a “steady flow of personal benefits,” including Viagra pills and prostitution services from a political operative who represented a company seeking an exemption from the city’s water ordinance, the affidavit alleged.
As the powerful head of the Zoning Committee, Solis directed a legislative aide to keep a running list of those he sought campaign contributions from, along with what official action each contributor wanted from him, the affidavit alleged.[Most read] Why did the Bears draft Mitch Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson? »
The document also lays out Solis’ financial difficulties — including the foreclosure of his home — at the time the FBI was listening in on his phone calls. Solis allegedly had borrowed from friends, developers and his campaign fund, including $15,000 he used in 2012 to pay off an Internal Revenue Service debt.
The affidavit named a series of politicians, power brokers, lobbyists, friends and developers who were recorded as they sought assistance from Solis during the investigation. None has been publicly charged in the nearly three years since the affidavit was written.
Among them was a developer who allegedly provided Solis with the use of a farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey for a graduation party for Solis’ son; a political operative for former Mayor Richard M. Daley who allegedly chided Solis for not steering more business his way; and a clout-heavy lawyer and lobbyist who allegedly steered money to Solis in exchange for the alderman’s support on various development projects.
The affidavit also detailed an alleged effort by Solis to send legal work to Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan from an undisclosed businessman seeking to develop a hotel in Chinatown.
Madigan has previously denied any wrongdoing.[Most read] On same day as last week’s shooting in California, student arrested after police say cache of assault-style weapons found in his car at Morton College »
The affidavit was filed in support of warrants to search Solis’ City Hall office, ward office, home and other locations, but those never took place because of Solis’ quick cooperation.
As part of his cooperation, Solis wore a wire for the FBI for two years, recording numerous conversations with powerful Ald. Edward Burke at City Hall, the Tribune has previously reported. Burke was charged Jan. 3 with attempted extortion for allegedly trying to shake down two businessmen seeking to renovate a Burger King restaurant in the 14th Ward.
Soon after the affidavit became public Wednesday, Solis, who has not been seen publicly since it was first revealed two months ago that he’d worn a wire, confirmed his cooperation in the federal investigation in a statement issued through his attorney.
“Mr. Solis has decided to cooperate with the federal government to continue to serve the city of Chicago’s best interests,” the statement read. “Because his cooperation is part of an ongoing federal investigation, Mr. Solis cannot comment on the allegations against him or on those contained in the recently unsealed affidavit that is part of the federal investigation.”
Allegations of sexual favors
The affidavit’s most sensational details centered on allegations that Solis accepted erectile dysfunction drugs and sexual services in exchange for the alderman’s help with official city business.[Most read] Flashback: In 1984, prep basketball phenom Ben Wilson’s star was rising. Then two bullets destroyed everything. »
According to the document, federal authorities captured several conversations in which Solis sought Viagra — including once before a trip to Taiwan — from political consultant Roberto Caldero, who at the time was representing a street sweeping company that was looking for a financial break from the city.
Calling the pills “the blue medicine” in reference to their signature color, Solis asked Caldero for the drug on at least four different occasions, according to the affidavit.
There was no evidence Solis ever paid Caldero for the medicine.
The affidavit suggested that Caldero also offered prostitution services to Solis at a North Side massage parlor on several occasions.
“Let me tell you why I called,” Solis was quoted as saying in one call from July 2015. “I want to get a good massage, with a nice ending.”[Most read] María Celeste Arrarás: La que revela ‘El secreto de Selena’ »
When Caldero said he knew of a place and would make an appointment, Solis asked, “What kind of women do they got there?” the affidavit said.
“Asian,” Caldero responded.
“Oh good! Good, good, good,” Solis said, according to a transcript. “I like Asian.”
The FBI had the parlor under surveillance several times when Solis and Caldero visited, according to the affidavit. Federal authorities said Solis’ bank records do not show any payments to the parlor.
At the same time, Caldero was lobbying the alderman on a variety of issues, including assistance for Elgin Sweeping, which was trying to get its $1 million bill from the city’s Water Department lowered, the affidavit said.[Most read] Grieving friend of 22-year-old killed in East Side Subway shooting pleads to be let past crime tape: ‘How do you think I’m supposed to act?’ »
After Solis successfully interceded on the company’s behalf, he solicited campaign contributions from Elgin Sweeping’s president, Chris Cacciatore, and his relatives, the affidavit said. Solis referred to his aldermanic efforts on the company’s behalf while seeking the donations, according to the affidavit.
Solis received a $4,500 contribution from a company operated by Cacciatore’s brother, real estate developer Joseph Cacciatore, in September 2015, according to the affidavit.
A few hours after Solis informed Caldero about the contribution, an FBI surveillance team saw the alderman and Caldero enter the massage parlor together. In a phone call earlier that day, Caldero allegedly had promised the politician the same “older lady” who previously had given Solis a massage.
“Be over there by 1,” Solis responded, according to the affidavit.
Caldero could not be reached for comment, while representatives from Elgin Sweeping and Jos. Cacciatore Co. did not return requests for comment.
House Speaker Madigan secretly recorded
The FBI investigation of Solis appeared to stem from another probe that had ensnared a real estate developer who did business with the city.
Seeking leniency, the undisclosed developer began cooperating in May 2014, the affidavit said. That month, he told the FBI he was representing a Chinese businessman who was attempting to have property at 2020 S. Archer Ave. rezoned for a hotel.
After the developer made a $2,500 donation to Solis at a fundraiser, the alderman agreed to meet with representatives of the project to discuss letters of support for the plan.
In August 2014, the cooperator secretly recorded a meeting with Solis, Madigan and representatives of the hotel project at Madigan’s law firm, Madigan & Getzendanner, which specializes in real estate tax appeals, according to the filing.
“Well, our interest would be that we represent buildings like that on the real estate taxes … and we do quite a few hotels,” the affidavit quoted Madigan as saying. “And, uh, we have a little different approach to representation on hotels than the other law firms that do the work.”[Most read] Bud Light King John Hoogenaker talks Loyola, Chicago fans, ‘Jack Ryan’ and, of course, ‘dilly dilly’ »
Madigan said he was interested in representing the businessman in other projects as well.
“We’re not interested in a quick killing here,” Madigan allegedly said. “We’re interested in a long-term relationship.”
As the meeting broke up, the cooperator allegedly told Solis that the businessman he represented would love to retain Madigan’s firm, but the zoning change for the hotel would be critical.
“Well, if he works with the speaker, he will get anything he needs for the hotel,” Solis allegedly told the businessman.
The cooperator later provided law enforcement with emails on the hotel zoning change from Solis and also apparently recorded a hearing before the City Council’s Zoning Committee at which Solis championed the hotel development.[Most read] Kanye West tells Joel Osteen ‘the devil has been distracting me for a long time’ »
In September 2014, the cooperator recorded a phone call to Madigan’s General Assembly office to discuss the hiring of the speaker’s law firm. Madigan allegedly told the cooperator to come to the firm to discuss the firm’s representation.
Minutes later, the cooperator called Solis to report that the contract with Madigan appeared to be on track.
“Excellent. Excellent,” Solis was quoted as responding. “Very, very good. Thank you.”
The firm had not been retained at the time the affidavit was filed, the document noted. The hotel was never built.
After details of the meeting were first published by the Sun-Times, Madigan denied any wrongdoing.[Most read] Prince Amukamara backs Colin Kaepernick: ‘He definitely deserves to be in the league’ »
“If indeed, some of his conversations were being recorded, the speaker did not know that, but he has no concern if they were,” Heather Wier Vaught, a private attorney for Madigan, said in a statement issued at the time. “The speaker has no recollection of ever suggesting that he would take official action for a private law firm client or potential client.”
Mixing city business and campaign contributions
In August 2015, Solis was recorded seeking campaign donations for his upcoming “Taste of the 25th Ward” fundraising event from Victor Reyes, a clout-heavy attorney who founded the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization that was at the center of a hiring scandal during the Daley administration.
Reyes complained on the call that Solis had never steered any business his way despite his support, while other city aldermen returned his favors.
“How ’bout anything, Danny?” Reyes was quoted as saying. “How ’bout anything? Not just the big one. How about one f—— thing?”
Reyes named several other aldermen in the call, saying that they had sent him numerous legal clients in recent months, but “the chairman of the f—— Zoning Committee hasn’t sent me one.”[Most read] 5 things we learned about Big Ten football after Week 12, including Minnesota’s slim playoff hopes and the Big Ten’s Herschel Walker. Plus, our updated power rankings. »
Solis promised Reyes he would make it up to him, saying, “You’ve made your point,” according to the affidavit.
“I’ll get to you this month, I promise you,” Solis allegedly said. “Before my event, I’ll get you more business than what, what you raise.”
The affidavit also alleged Solis enlisted the help of real estate developer Frederick Latsko for at least two personal favors involving the alderman’s family. At the time, Latsko had had multiple projects before the Zoning Committee chaired by Solis and had donated thousands of dollars to Solis’ campaign fund.
In 2015, Latsko provided Solis a free weekend at a 180-acre Indiana farm once owned by Winfrey for a graduation party for the alderman’s son, according to the affidavit. The FBI conducted surveillance of the event from the air.
When he’d purchased the farm in 2011, Latsko was quoted in media reports saying he might charge $20,000 a day to rent the property for events, according to the affidavit. Authorities searched Solis’ personal bank records and did not find proof of any payment.[Most read] North Korea’s Kim Jong Un called Joe Biden a ‘rabid dog’ and President Trump came to his defense: He’s ‘actually somewhat better than that’ »
Federal authorities, meanwhile, captured multiple phone calls between Solis, his sister and Latsko employees about party food, liquor and decorations.
Seeking ‘economic revenge’
Authorities also allege in the affidavit that Latsko agreed in 2015 to help Solis take “economic revenge” on the former business partners of one of the alderman’s daughters after they “ousted her” from a dance studio they operated.
The affidavit alleged Latsko contacted the landlord of the dance studio property and offered a year’s rent upfront for a lease to allow him to “potentially evict Marisol Solis’s adversaries.”
In a follow-up phone conversation, Latsko told Ald. Solis he spoke to the landlord and made it clear to him that “nobody asked me to call, I just heard the situation and I just called you on my own and I know that this is what they want,” according to the affidavit.
Solis allegedly responded, “That’s fantastic, Fred. That is great.”
In a later recorded phone conversation, Latsko assured the powerful alderman that the matter was being handled.
“Well, the bad guys are going to get a notice that they have to move out,” Latsko allegedly said.
“Excellent,” Solis responded. “That’s excellent. Excellent.”
The alleged deal never went through because Solis’ daughter was unsure if she wanted to run the studio herself, the affidavit said.
Meanwhile, as Latsko was allegedly helping out Solis with his son’s graduation party and his daughter’s business problems, Solis proposed a city ordinance “favorable to Latsko’s business interests,” the affidavit alleged.