CHICAGO – In a 37-page complaint filed by an FBI special agent January 2, the powerful Chicago Alderman Ed Burke is accused of extorting national Burger King restaurant chain executives for their property tax appeal business and for at least one campaign donation.
The alderman appeared in federal court in downtown Chicago Thursday, required to post $10,000 bond and relinquish possession of 23 firearms found at the alderman's City Hall office in November during an FBI raid.
The complaint, filed by FBI Special Agent Edward McNamara, alleges the alderman
"did knowingly attempt to commit extortion, which extortion would obstruct, delay and affect commerce, in that defendant attempted to obtain property, namely, fees arising from the retention of his law firm, Klafter & Burke, to be paid by Company A and its affiliate , with the consent of Company A and its affiliate, induced by the wrongful use of actual and threatened fear of economic harm, and under color of official right."
Not only is Ed Burke one of the most powerful Chicago City Council alderman, he's married to Illinois Supreme Court Justice Anne Burke and is well known for approving, vetting and slating Democrat Party Cook County judges for decades.
Complaints from Burger King executives appear to have led to the FBI wiretapping Burke's cell phone starting around May 2017 – a source that eventually produced evidence used in McNamara's filings.
Company A – now known as Burger King – prepared to remodel a restaurant located in Ed Burke's 14th Ward, The company's architect sought a building permit from the City of Chicago's Department of Buildings. The architect advised the company execs that in order to obtain a permit, Alderman Burke would need to sign off on the project. (While such approval is not required by law, the company execs were informed that such an agreement would "accelerate" the permit process.)
Wiretaps revealed Burke speaking with one of the execs, in which Burke complained about trucks parking overnight in the restaurant parking lot. Burke suggested a meeting to discuss the needed permit.
In another wiretapped call reported in McNamara's complaint, Burke instructed his assistant to find out which law firm represented the Burger King chain's property tax appeals. Burke affirmed in another call to a "state official" from where the Burger King execs reside that he "wanted to get some business for his private law firm" from the Burger King execs.
In June 2017, the Burger King execs met with Burke and his assistant at the restaurant. Burke reviewed the truck parking complaints and the need for a driveway permit. At a subsequent meeting, Burke promoted his law firm for property tax reductions, despite the execs not requesting the information.
"Individual A advised law enforcement that Individual A 'read between the lines,' and that it was Individual A's understanding that BURKE was soliciting legal business in exchange for his help with permits for the restaurant," the complaint says on page 12.
The Burger King restaurant confirmed the parking lot where the trucks were parking as their property, and proceeded to post large "No Parking" signs. During a call on that issue, Burke suggested further conversation "about the real estate tax representation" and that the exec was "going to have somebody get in touch with me so we can expedite your permits."
That individual told the FBI that he felt "it was inappropriate for BURKE to link obtaining tax work with BURKE's official assistance concerning driveway permits."
The Burger King execs did not seek Burke's law firm for tax appeal help, provoking Burke to give his assistant approval to "play hardball" with the chain.
McNamara writes on Page 17 of the complaint, "I believe BURKE instructed Ward Employee 1 to interfere with the operation of the restaurant, based on the pretext of the restaurant not having a driveway permit, when in fact BURKE sought to extort Company A because Individual A and Individual B had not provided BURKE with the tax work for his firm."
The complaint goes on to reference evidence found during the FBI's November raid of the alderman's office. Hard copies of emails and memos, as well as emailed communications on computers are quoted.
At one point, the restaurant's remodeling project was stopped because of conflicts with the permit.
During one wiretapped call, the Ward Employee told Burke he was going to tell the Burger King reps that not only does the construction have to stop, "the business has to stop," referring to all the other business licenses the chain has.
On October 26, 2017, the Burger King architect wrote individuals within the City of Chicago's Department of Buildings that "my client just informed me that Alderman Burke has shut this job down. This is quite disturbing considering that all of our restaurant projects follow the same process thru DOB for permit submittal and Zoning approval .. This does not seem right that Burke can shut this project down considering we have our permit."
The next day, a City of Chicago Department of Transportation inspector issued a citation to Company A for not having a driveway permit. Before issuing the permit, travel records show the inspector visited BURKE's ward office. Attempts to obtain the driveway permits were allegedly thwarted by Burke's staff, the complaint says.
The Burger King execs met with Burke and under pressure to resume the project, agreed to hire Burke's law firm in December 2017 – at the time the remodeling project remained halted. During that meeting, Burke encouraged the execs to get involved with other Chicago politicians.
The delay had negative economic consequences, Individual A told the FBI.
On December 19, 2019, on a wiretapped call, Burke conveyed to a city employee that he wanted the Burger King exec to reveal the locations of all Burger King throughout the state.
That same day, the driveway permit for the 14th Ward Burger King was approved by the Department of Transportation and renovation continued.
While delaying any legal commitments with Burke's law firm, the Burger King execs proceeded with the remodeling project. When it was completed mid-2018, they chose not to hire Burke's law firm.
The Burger King exec felt pressure to make a political donation and attend a political fundraiser early in 2018 for who is now known to be Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle – who is now running for mayor of Chicago. A $10,000 check was written to Preckwinkle, but returned because, Preckwinkle says, it superceded the $5600 donation limit.
Based on the foregoing, there is probable cause to believe that EDWARD M. BURKE has attempted, by extortion, to obstruct and affect commerce, in violation of Title 18, United States Code, Section 1951.
Burke faces a possible 20 year sentence in federal prison if convicted.
I wonder what ELSE the FBI found in those office raids?
And has any officer checked the serial numbers on all those guns? Does a-hole Burke have permits and a FOID card to legally own them?
Like an onion, more will surface as the layers are peeled off, and the smell will grow stronger.
And THAT’S why we call it, “Chit-cago.”
What do you know? Another crooked Chicago politician!
Looks like Mr Burke violated the number one law of Chicago Politics, He got caught.
I wonder who the corrupt alderman Burke failed to pay off in the demonstrably corrupt FBI?
There is no justice left in the once great nation. The attorney general’s office is corrupt, the FBI is corrupt, the Supreme Court is corrupt,the Senate and House are both corrupt under either party…in Illinois the Chicago police department and most suburban police departments are corrupt.
150 years ago the solution for the lack of criminal prosecution with no justice for the honest people was Committees of Vigilance.
That’s why crooked cops and politicians fear vigilantes so much: they can apply REAL justice to the law.