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Former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval Charged With Bribery, Filing False Tax Return In Red Light Camera Probe

by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Four months after federal agents raided his home and offices, former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval has been charged with bribery and filing a false tax return in connection with his support for the red light camera industry.

Sandoval, 56, was charged with one count of bribery involving federal programs and one count of fraud and false statements.

The charges against Sandoval, a Democrat from the Southwest Side, include few details, accusing him of taking bribes for his continued support of red light cameras in Illinois as chairman of the Senate Transportation Committee, including his opposition to legislation "adverse to the interests of the red-light-camera industry."

State Sen. Martin Sandoval
Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval. (Credit: CBS 2)

According to the charges, Sandoval "corruptly solicited, demanded, agreed to accept, and accepted things of value, namely, money, intending to be influenced and rewarded in connection with a business, transaction, and series of transactions of the State of Illinois involving a thing of value of $5,000 or more."

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The charges also accuse Sandoval of filing a false federal income tax return for 2017, claiming he earned $125,905, "when defendant knew that the total income substantially exceeded that amount."

Sandoval is the first person to be charged in the wake of a sweeping investigation involving several local elected officials, the red light camera industry, ComEd, casinos and more.

He is scheduled to be arraigned Tuesday morning before U.S. District Judge Andrea Wood.

Illinois State Senate President Don Harmon said the charges against Sandoval serve "as a reminder of the challenge we face in restoring the public's trust and why that issue is a priority this session."

"The searing image of federal agents toting boxes out of former Senator Sandoval's Capitol office was an embarrassment to all of us who take public service seriously," Harmon said in a statement.

No one answered the door at Sandoval's Southwest Side home when CBS 2 Political Investigator Dana Kozlov stopped by. Calls to Sandoval's attorney, Dylan Smith, were not returned.

In September, the FBI raided Sandoval's office at the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield, his office in Cicero, and his home in the Gage Park neighborhood. Agents could be seen leaving his Senate offices and his home with cardboard boxes, brown paper bags marked evidence, computer equipment, and more.

Days later the FBI also raided the village halls in Lyons and McCook, and visited the village hall in Summit -- all suburbs within Sandoval's district.

A search warrant from the Sandoval raid revealed the feds were seeking evidence related to a vast array of subjects; including red light camera company SafeSpeed, ComEd and parent company Exelon, Cook County Commissioner and McCook Village President Jeff Tobolski, businessman Michael Vondra, video gambling company Gold Rush Gaming, and several unnamed Illinois Department of Transportation officials.

ComEd and parent company Exelon later reveled they had been subpoenaed by the feds for "records of any communications" with Sandoval. A representative of the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois, which filed the subpoena, declined to discuss it. A ComEd representative said the company intends to comply with any and all inquiries, and they've formed a special oversight committee to oversee it.

Within days of the subpoena becoming public, top Exelon executive Anne Pramaggiore abruptly resigned. Pramaggiore had been CEO of Exelon Utilities, which oversees the energy giant's six local gas and electric utility companies.

Weeks after the raids, Sandoval stepped down as Transportation Committee chairman, and eventually announced his resignation from the Senate in December.

Sandoval's relationship with ComEd goes back to 2007. Since then, his campaign has received $26,250 in donations, making him one of the top 25 recipients of ComEd donations during that period.

His other connection to ComEd is his daughter, Angie, who according to her Linkedin profile has been working for ComEd for nearly seven years – taking on the role of senior account manager in June.

An Exelon spokesman would not connect Pramaggiore's resignation to the Sandoval investigation, but the timeline and the timing of Pramaggiore's retirement – along with information from sources – indicate a strong connection.

Last week, Oakbrook Terrace Mayor Tony Ragucci also resigned in apparent connection to the red light camera probe.

According to published reports, the FBI seized $60,000 from a safe in Ragucci's home in October.

One month later, Ragucci's campaign paid $30,000 to attorney Thomas Crooks for legal fees, according to state campaign finance records.

According to published reports, Ragucci is one of several elected officials involved in a federal probe of red light camera firm SafeSpeed, which operates the red light cameras in Oakbrook Terrace and several other suburbs.


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