Former Ald. Medrano, Ex-Commissioner Moreno Charged In Corruption Probe
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Updated 06/28/12 – 5:58 p.m.
CHICAGO (CBS) – Just two days before he officially steps down as the U.S. Attorney in Chicago, Patrick Fitzgerald’s office has nailed two more local elected officials in a public corruption probe.
Former Chicago Ald. Ambrosio Medrano Sr. and former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno were charged in three separate bribery schemes, along with five local businessmen.
All seven defendants appeared in federal court Thursday afternoon. Moreno posted $250,000 bond, putting his home up as collateral. Medrano was ordered held in custody, pending a detention hearing.
LISTEN: WBBM Newsradio’s Nancy Harty reports
In one of the three schemes, Moreno allegedly accepted a $5,000 bribe to help ensure development of a waste transfer station in Cicero while he was appointed to the town’s economic development board.
Federal prosecutors alleged Moreno agreed to use his influence to help an FBI informant in the development of a waste transfer station on vacant land at 54th Avenue and Roosevelt Road in Cicero. Federal agents allegedly recorded Moreno telling the informant “I don’t want to be a hog, I just want to be a pig. Hogs get slaughtered, pigs get fat.”
Moreno allegedly accepted an envelope containing $5,000 in cash from the informant in December 2010, with a promise of another $5,000 cash a few weeks later. He also allegedly believed he had an agreement to get 10 percent of the revenue from the waste transfer station on a continuing basis.
In another scheme, both Moreno and Medrano were charged, along with three businessmen, in a scheme to use bribes and kickbacks to sell bandages to public hospitals, including John H. Stroger Jr. Hospital of Cook County, according to federal prosecutors.
Moreno and Medrano — who was working on Moreno’s county staff in 2010 — allegedly agreed to use their influence as county officials to get Stroger Hospital to order Dermafill brand bandages from Chasing Lions, LLC, a business owned by disabled veterans. Moreno had sponsored a 2010 ordinance to benefit such businesses.
According to federal prosecutors, three agents for Chasing Lions — Stanley Wozniak, Jerry Lombardi Sr., and Jerry Lombardi Jr. — agreed to provide Moreno and Medrano with kickbacks for every bandage the county bought from Chasing Lions. Moreno and Medrano allegedly agreed to split a $70,000 fee for every 1,000 boxes of bandages the county purchased, but the county never agreed to any large-scale purchases. Instead, county officials would only discuss small purchases before Moreno was voted out of office.
After Moreno left office, Medrano allegedly concluded Moreno could no longer influence county hospital purchases. But in February 2011, an FBI informant introduced Medrano to an undercover FBI agent posing as a purchasing agent for an out-of-state county hospital system.
According to federal prosecutors, Medrano and the Lombardis agreed to provide the undercover agent and a fictitious official of the unnamed county hospital system with kickbacks in exchange for his help getting the out-of-state hospital system make bulk purchases of the bandages. Medrano and the Lombardis allegedly provided the agent with an invoice for the sale of $9,360 worth of bandages for that county. They also later gave the informant an envelope containing $1,872 to be passed on to the undercover agent.
Medrano was also charged in a separate scheme with two other businessmen — James Barta and Gustavo Buenrostro — to provide another bribe to the undercover agent and the fictitious hospital official in exchange for the out-of-state county hospitals doing business with Barta’s firm, Sav-Rx, a Nebraska-based mail-order prescription drug service.
It’s not the first time Medrano has faced federal corruption charges. The former 25th Ward alderman served 21 months in prison in the 1990s, after he was convicted of taking $31,000 in bribes from an undercover FBI agent, and placing two political allies in no-work city jobs.
Moreno served four terms as a commissioner of the 7th District in Cook County, before he was defeated in 2010 by Jesus “Chuy” Garcia.