Feds sought records involving IDOT employees, evidence of bribery in search of Sen. Sandoval’s office

A heavily redacted search warrant, released Tuesday, suggests what FBI agents were focused on when they searched Sandoval’s office in Springfield last week.

SHARE Feds sought records involving IDOT employees, evidence of bribery in search of Sen. Sandoval’s office
Then state Sen. Martin Sandoval in 2008.

State Sen. Martin Sandoval

Seth Perlman/AP file

FBI agents were looking for evidence of kickbacks in exchange for official actions as well as information related to five Illinois Department of Transportation employees and several lobbyists when they raided the Springfield office of State Sen. Martin Sandoval last week, records show.

Items named in a heavily redacted search warrant released Tuesday include those related to a highway company, a construction company, “any business owned and controlled by Martin Sandoval,” several municipalities and a political organization, among other entities. Names were redacted by state officials after the Sun-Times filed a Freedom of Information Act request for the warrant last week.

Sandoval and IDOT officials have long clashed over whether to allow recycled asphalt shingles in road construction, according to Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office. Sandoval pushed for it, while IDOT opposed it. Sandoval tried several times to insert his position into the state’s capital bill but failed.

The move would have benefitted a long-time supporter of Sandoval, businessman and asphalt magnate Michael Vondra, a source said.

A Bartlett police official confirmed Tuesday that the FBI recently visited Bluff City Materials, a business tied to Vondra, but the official could provide no further information. Vondra could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Federal agents obtained several items from Sandoval’s office, including several iPhones, a laptop computer and an Apple computer, as well as a “Friends of Martin Sandoval” spreadsheet from December 2017, a file labeled “IDOT,” USB drives and shredded paper. They also seized a statement of economic interest and documents referencing the town of Cicero. Sandoval has had a lucrative contract for years with the town to provide translation services for the town newsletter.

An IDOT spokesman said in a statement: “The Illinois Department of Transportation has not received a subpoena for any records of communication between its employees and Sen. Sandoval. The department will be transparent and cooperative with authorities as the investigation of Sen. Sandoval moves forward.”

The governor’s office said: “This administration expects public servants to be held to the highest ethical standards, and it is unconscionable to use elected office for monetary gain in any way.”

An attorney for Sandoval could not be reached for comment.

Sandoval is still the chairman of the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee. A spokesman for Illinois Senate President John Cullerton on Tuesday had no update on whether Sandoval would be removed from that post in light of the search warrant’s intent and involvement with IDOT.

“When the Senate president makes decisions, he likes them to be informed decisions and clearly this is an ongoing investigation,” spokesman John Patterson said.

Federal agents descended Sept. 24 on Sandoval’s home and offices as part of an ongoing criminal investigation, adding him to the growing list of city and state politicians facing serious scrutiny.

FBI agents carrying boxes and a bag marked EVIDENCE leave the state Capitol in Springfield after raiding the office of state Sen. Martin Sandoval.

FBI agents carrying boxes and a bag marked EVIDENCE on Tuesday leave the state Capitol in Springfield after raiding the office of state Sen. Martin Sandoval.

John O’Connor/AP photo

Two days later, federal agents visited village halls in Lyons, Summit and McCook, where Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski is mayor. They also visited Getty Insurance in Lyons, the agency of Lyons Mayor Christopher Getty.

The series of raids offered the latest public signal of multiple, ongoing investigations into public officials in Chicago and Illinois. The first arrived when the FBI last November raided the City Hall office of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), who has since been hit with a 59-page racketeering indictment. The Sun-Times has reported that former Ald. Danny Solis (25th) cooperated with federal authorities as part of the investigation and recorded Burke.

The feds conducted a similar raid in June on the offices of Ald. Carrie Austin (34th), though she has not been charged with any wrongdoing. 

Meanwhile, state Sen. Thomas Cullerton found himself under indictment in August. Associates of Illinois House Speaker Mike Madigan, including former Ald. Mike Zalewski (23rd), have also been circled by the feds in recent months. ComEd has acknowledged a subpoena targeting its lobbying activities.

Contributing: Robert Herguth

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