CHICAGO (CBS) — Former McCook Mayor and Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski has pleaded guilty to federal corruption charges, admitting he accepted multiple bribes totaling more than $250,000.
Tobolski, who is cooperating with federal investigators, was first charged last month with conspiracy to commit extortion and filing a false tax return, but at the time prosecutors provided few details of his crimes.
According to his plea agreement, Tobolski conspired with an unnamed McCook police officer to squeeze an unidentified restaurant owner seeking permission to host events involving the sale of alcohol at his restaurant – which had a five-year lease with the village – for a $29,700 cash bribe in 2016. At the time, Tobolski also served as liquor commissioner in McCook.
In total, federal prosecutors said Tobolski took more than $250,000 in bribes in schemes involving more than five other participants, by abusing his positions as Mayor of McCook and Cook County Commissioner. Prosecutors did not reveal how many victims were involved.
Tobolski also admitted to falsifying his 2018 income tax return to claim his income was $214,270, “when defendant knew the total income substantially exceeded that amount.” The feds say his actual income that year was at least $279,668.50, at least $10,000 of which came from bribes.
Although he is pleading guilty to only one tax fraud charge, the plea agreement says he also filed false tax returns from 2012-2017.
If convicted at trial, Tobolski would have faced up to 23 years in prison, and up to $500,000 in fines, plus restitution. Under the plea deal, he faces a recommended range of 135 to 168 months in prison (or 11.25 to 14 years), although the ultimate sentence will be up to a judge.
Tobolski resigned both his elected positions in March, just weeks after his longtime chief of staff, Patrick Doherty, was charged by the feds.
In February, Doherty, was indicted on two counts of bribery and one count of conspiracy to defraud, accused of conspiring with a fellow sales agent for red light camera company SafeSpeed, and one of the company’s owners, to pay $4,000 in bribes to the relative of an Oak Lawn village trustee, in exchange for influencing that trustee to help approve the installation of additional cameras.
On Monday, that former SafeSpeed owner, Omar Maani, was charged for his role in the scheme with Doherty. He faces one count of bribery conspiracy. He also has been cooperating with the feds, according to published reports.
The charges against Doherty came about two weeks after former Illinois State Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to taking $70,000 in bribes to act as a “protector” for red light camera company SafeSpeed. Sandoval said he agreed to take bribes in exchange for blocking proposed legislation to ban red light cameras.
Federal agents raided Sandoval’s home and offices last September, four months before he was charged. According to a search warrant from those raids, federal investigators are casting a wide net in an ongoing corruption probe. The warrant revealed the FBI was seeking evidence related to a vast array of subjects — including Tobolski and SafeSpeed. Others named in the warrant included ComEd; businessman Michael Vondra; video gambling company Gold Rush Gaming; several unnamed Illinois Department of Transportation officials; and several asphalt, concrete, and construction companies.