Illinois state Sen. Tom Cullerton (D) was indicted Friday on more than three dozen federal embezzlement charges stemming from his role as a union organizer. Cullerton, a former Teamsters union member who entered the state Senate in 2012, took the organizer job in 2013 but reportedly did not perform the duties of the job while he had it.
The Democrat was charged with one count of “conspiracy to embezzle from a labor union and employee benefit plans” and 39 counts of “embezzlement from a labor union,” according to NBC Chicago. He is also facing one charge for “making false statements in a health care matter.”
Cullerton’s indictment comes three days after union boss John Coli, Sr. pleaded guilty to extortion and agreed to cooperate with federal officials. Coli is the one who reportedly gave Cullerton the union job.
According to the Chicago Tribune, Coli and Cullerton ignored multiple complaints about Cullerton not showing up to work or performing his duties, the indictment said.
Cullerton Denies Charges
Cullerton’s attorney, John Theis, said the charges against his client were unfounded and that Cullerton would fight the allegations.
“As an honorably discharged veteran of the United States Army and highly respected public servant, Tom Cullerton is a person who is dedicated to his family, constituents, and all Illinoisans,” Theis said. “The action by the U.S. Department of Justice has nothing to do with Mr. Cullerton’s work in the Illinois State Senate but is the result of false claims by disgraced Teamsters boss John Coli in an apparent attempt to avoid penalties for his wrongdoing.”
The indictment says that Cullerton “fraudulently obtained and misappropriated for his own benefit” about $188,320 in salary, allowances, bonuses, and other benefits, as well as approximately $64,068 in health and welfare plan and pension plan contributions from Teamsters Joint Council 25, plus around $21,678 in reimbursed medical claims from Teamsters Local Union 734’s health and welfare fund.
In all, Cullerton is alleged to have embezzled nearly $275,000 from the union through the fraudulent job. Supervisors repeatedly requested that Cullerton perform duties related to the job, but he mostly refused, according to the indictment.
The indictment also says Cullerton conspired with individuals inside the union to misrepresent himself as an employee to qualify for medical benefits. He received medical reimbursements that added up to $20,000 since 2013.
Tom Cullerton is a distant cousin to Senate President John Cullerton, a Democrat who represents Chicago. John Cullerton’s spokesman, John Patterson, said Friday that the charges were “clearly part of an ongoing investigation” but did not comment on the allegations specifically.
It was not clear how the indictment would affect Tom Cullerton’s Senate position or whether he would seek to resign as he faced the charges. Tom Cullerton was reportedly out of town Friday and could not be reached for comment.
It has taken a long time, but it looks like at least some of the ongoing, rampant Chicago union corruption may finally be coming to an end.