by Todd Feurer, CBS Chicago web producer

CHICAGO (CBS) — Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz pleaded guilty Monday to stealing nearly $38,000 from a political fund he once controlled to use on personal expenses, including a relative’s college tuition, tickets to sporting events, travel, jewelry, and more.

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Munoz, 56, was indicted in April on 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. On Monday, He pleaded guilty in federal court to one count of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. He

According to the plea agreement, while Munoz was serving as chairman of the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus, he absconded with $37,891.99 from the group’s political action committee to use on personal expenses.

The caucus removed him as chairman in 2019, after accusing him of questionable spending in filings with the Illinois State Board of Elections. The complaint led to the federal charges against Munoz.

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According to the plea agreement, he used the money he stole for jewelry from a Louis Vuitton store, an insurance payment on his car, women’s clothing from Nordstrom’s, three iPhones, a skydiving excursions, tickets to Chicago Bulls and Los Angeles Kings games, and travel to Los Angeles. He also paid overdue college tuition for a family member.

The wire fraud and money laundering charges carry a maximum penalty of 30 years in prison, if Munoz were to be sentenced to consecutive terms, as well as a maximum fine of $500,000; but under his plea agreement, prosecutors will recommend he serve 10 to 16 months in prison. The amount of any fine will be left up to a judge, although he must pay $6,891.99 in restitution as part of the deal.

Sentencing is set for Jan. 5.

Munoz, who represented the 22nd Ward from 1993 until 2019, did not run for re-election in 2019, after his wife accused him of physically abusing her. He was later acquitted of a misdemeanor charge of domestic battery. He had been arrested on Jan. 2 of that year after police said he got into a quarrel with his wife on New Year’s Eve two days earlier, and shoved and hit her.

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A month after the alleged incident, the Chicago Tribune reported Munoz’s wife, Betty Torres Munoz, said she wanted to reconcile with her husband – calling him a “really good man” dealing with alcohol addiction.

CBS 2 Chicago Staff