clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Willie Cochran’s guilty plea seals his name on Chicago’s ‘aldercrook’ timeline

A collection of noted Chicago aldermen with criminal missteps in their histories.

Ald. Willie Cochran’s plea on Thursday adds him to the crowd of Chicago aldermen who’ve been found guilty of a crime — extortion, embezzlement, tax evasion and bribery among them.

Cochran became the 35th name on Chicago’s list of “aldercrooks” when he pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for siphoning money from a ward fund meant for charity and spending it on personal expenses. The list dates back to the early 1970s.

Cochran is also now the third guilty alderman from the 20th Ward; his predecessors Arenda Troutman and Cliff Kelley are also on the list. That ties the 20th Ward’s record of convicted aldermen with the 23rd and 31st wards.

Cochran’s 15-count indictment in 2016 included bribery and wire fraud. Federal authorities accused him of stealing from a 20th Ward fund meant to help children and senior citizens, using $5,000 to pay his daughter’s college tuition and withdrawing $25,000 from ATMs near casinos.

Dating back to 1973, here’s Chicago’s Aldermanic Hall of Shame — the officials who have given the Windy City the unflattering reputation of being politically corrupt.

Some on this list appear for crimes that occurred after their time in City Council, including James Laski, Ed Vrdolyak and William Beavers.

Fred Hubbard (2nd) - 1973
Pleaded guilty to embezzling.

Joseph Jambrone (28th) - 1973
Convicted of taking bribes.

Casimir J. Staszcuk (13th) - 1973
Found guilty of extortion by demanding $9,000 in exchange for allowing three zoning changes. Also convicted of mail fraud and income tax evasion.

Joseph Potempa (23rd) - 1973
Pleaded guilty to taking a $3,000 bribe to support a zoning change in his ward — and for failing to report that income to the IRS.

Frank Kuta (23rd) - 1974
Convicted of taking a $1,500 bribe from a builder to approve a zoning change and also for failing to report that income.

Thomas E. Keane (31st) - 1974
Convicted of mail fraud and conspiracy for a scheme involving the purchase and resale of tax-delinquent properties.

Paul T. Wigoda (49th) - 1974
Convicted of tax evasion for failing to report a $50,000 bribe related to the rezoning of the Edgewater Golf Club. He also was Keane’s law partner.

Donald T. Swinarski (12th) - 1975
Pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return in connection with a $7,000 payoff for a zoning change. Later became a state senator.

Edward T. Scholl (41st) - 1975
Convicted of taking bribes.

Stanley Zydlo (26th) - 1980
Pleaded guilty to paying a bribe.

William Carothers (28th) - 1983
Convicted of attempted extortion.

Louis P. Farina (36th) - 1983
Convicted of extortion.

Tyrone T. Kenner (3rd) - 1983
Convicted of taking bribes.

Chester A. Kuta (31st) - 1987
As part of the Operation Phocus investigation of bribe-taking by city licensing and inspection officials, Kuta pleaded guilty to charges of filing a false income tax return and to extorting $5,370 from Leonard Kraus, a businessman who paid the bribes to maintain a flea market in Kuta’s ward.

Clifford P. Kelley (20th) - 1987
Pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

Wallace Davis Jr. (27th) - 1987
Convicted of extortion.

Perry Hutchinson (9th) - 1988
Pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

Marian Humes (8th) - 1989
Pleaded guilty to taking bribes.

Fred Roti (1st) - 1993
Convicted for bribery, extortion and racketeering.

Ambrosio Medrano (25th) - 1996
A federal judge said Medrano pulled of an “unprecedented...corruption trifecta” that included his role in a scheme to take bribes and kickbacks to sell bandages to public hospitals.

Allan Streeter (17th) - 1996
Pleaded guilty to extortion.

Joseph Martinez (31st) - 1997
Pleaded guilty to holding a ghost-payroll job after he served as alderman.

Jesse Evans (21st) - 1997
Convicted of racketeering and extortion.

Joseph Kotlarz (35th) - 1997
Convicted of theft and conspiracy for skimming $240,000 from a 1992 tollway land deal.

John Madryzk (13th) - 1998
Pleaded guilty to partaking in a ghost-payrolling scheme.

Larry Bloom (5th) - 1998
Pleaded guilty to a single felony tax charge stemming from the Operation Silver Shovel corruption probe. Admitted accepting $14,000 in bribes from an FBI mole.

Virgil Jones (15th) - 1999
Convicted of taking bribes.

Percy Giles (37th) - 1999
Found guilty of taking payoffs and tax evasion.

James Laski (23rd) - 2006
Pleaded guilty to accepting $48,000 in bribes related to the city’s Hired Truck Program. His criminal conviction stemmed from his role as city clerk.

Ed Vrdolyak (10th) - 2008 and 2019
Though he never was convicted for anything related to his role as an alderman, authorities have since convicted him twice in public corruption-related schemes.

Arenda Troutman (20th) - 2008
Pleaded guilty to bribery and tax charges, admitted to extorting developers seeking zoning preferences.

Isaac “Ike” Carothers (29th) - 2010
Pleaded guilty to bribery, mail fraud and tax fraud for accepting $40,000 in home improvements, meals and sports tickets from a West Side developer in exchange for zoning changes that netted the developer millions. William Carothers was his father.

William Beavers (7th) - 2013
Sentenced to six months and fined $10,000 after being found guilty of tax evasion.

Sandi Jackson (7th) - 2013
Both Sandi Jackson and her now ex-husband, former Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., pleaded guilty to various schemes relating to the looting of his campaign committee. Sandi Jackson pleaded guilty to filing a false federal income tax return.

Willie Cochran (20th) - 2018
Cochran pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for spending money from a ward fund meant for charity on personal expenses.