Updated 02/23/12 – 4:26 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) — Cook County Commissioner William Beavers was indicted Thursday on allegations he failed to pay income taxes on tens of thousands of dollars of campaign cash that he used for personal reasons, but he claimed the feds targeted him because he refused to wear a wire targeting fellow Commissioner John Daley.
As CBS 2’s Dana Kozlov reports, the 77-year-old Beavers was charged with three counts of filing false federal income tax returns and one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the IRS in an indictment returned on Thursday, according to federal prosecutors.
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Beavers said he was targeted by the feds because he refused a request by prosecutors to wear a wire on fellow Cook County Commissioner John Daley.
“They came to me, they told me ‘We don’t want you, we want John Daley. We want you to wear a wire. I said ‘I’m too old to wear a wire. I’m too old to be a stool pigeon,’” Beavers told CBS 2’s Kristyn Hartman in an interview at his home. He said he told federal investigators, “I don’t know what you want him for. If you want him, go get him yourself.”
Beavers said the week after the feds approached him, he got a letter informing him he was being investigated on charges. But Daley denied that he’s being investigated by the feds and said he didn’t know why Beavers would drag him into the case.
“I have no idea, no. Bill Beavers and I – from day one, it’s apparent if you attended the board meetings – do not get along,” Daley said. “This indictment speaks for itself. It’s about Bill Beavers and only Bill Beavers. … The word ‘corrupt’ summarizes the indictment up.”
U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald declined to discuss Beavers’ claims.
“The reason he was that we alleged and commit to prove that he failed to disclose all his income on the taxes,” Fitzgerald said. “As far as any other motive, I can’t comment on that. What I would simply say is this, it would be entirely fair to read into my non-comment. … If you ask me whether or not he was indicted because he failed to wear a wire on the Pope, I would say the same thing. … We indicted him because we allege he committed a tax crime.”
The indictment alleges Beavers used campaign funds and his county expense account for personal gain and did not report the money on his personal income taxes.
Beavers, an old-school politician and proponent of patronage hiring, has described himself as “the Hog with the Big Nuts.” An alderman from 1983 to 2006, he long served as powerful chairman of the City Council Budget Committee under former Mayor Richard M. Daley, exerting a great deal of control over the city’s purse strings.
He did his best to live up to his self-given nickname on Thursday discussing the indictment, saying “nothing scares me.”
“I’m not concerned about the indictment. You know, I can tell you that I didn’t take any money, didn’t steal any money, I didn’t launder any money, okay? I’m not concerned about the indictment,” Beavers said. “I’ve been in this game 50 years. Nothing scares me, okay? Nothing scares me, alright? Not even this.”
In November 2006, Beavers resigned as alderman of Chicago’s 7th Ward when he was elected to the Cook County Board.
According to federal prosecutors, Beavers paid himself more than $225,000 from three campaign accounts between 2006 and 2008, to use for personal reasons, including gambling.
The indictment alleges that, starting in January 2006, Beavers began writing himself checks from his campaign fund to use for personal purposes, including gambling. In all, he wrote approximately 100 checks to himself — $96,000 worth in 2006; $69,300 worth in 2007; and $61,000 worth in 2008. He also allegedly used his campaign workers to prepare false campaign finance reports to falsify records about those checks to himself and disguise them as legitimate campaign expenditures.
Beavers allegedly used one of those checks — for $68,763.07 — to boost his city pension fund in order to get a larger annuity when he retired from the City Council.
Prosecutors also claim, after he became a county commissioner, Beavers used his $1,200 monthly county expense account for personal reasons, without reporting any of the money as income on his federal income tax returns.
“If politicians choose to use their campaign funds for personal use then they, like all the citizens they serve, share the obligation to honestly report their income and pay the correct amount of taxes,” Fitzgerald said in a news release. “The indictment alleges that over a course of three years, Commissioner Beavers repeatedly used his campaign accounts for personal use and then thwarted the Internal Revenue Service by causing his campaign committees to create false records to cover it up.”
Each of the four charges Beavers faces carries up to three years in prison and a $250,000 fine, plus restitution. No court appearances have yet been scheduled for Beavers.