In April 2000, the Chicago Sun-Times published a blockbuster story that rattled then-Mayor Richard M. Daley: His pal Oscar D’Angelo had collected $480,000 or more “to broker a lucrative deal” allowing the W.H. Smith company to keep operating shops for travelers at city-run O’Hare Airport.
The concession deal also stood to benefit two friends of Daley’s wife.
Days earlier had come the news that D’Angelo had given personal loans to a high-ranking Daley aide and his brother.
Daley quickly distanced himself from D’Angelo, who was known as the unofficial “mayor of Little Italy” until his death in 2016 at 84. And the mayor weathered the scandals — after landing in the hospital for what was believed to be a stress-induced visit.
Now, newly obtained federal records show that the FBI began investigating the O’Hare dealings soon after the revelations, though the case ultimately fizzled out, and no one was ever charged.
“On 04/11/2000, the FBI Chicago office opened a full public corruption investigation,” according to the FBI paperwork obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times and now part of the newspaper’s “The FBI Files” database.
“Several Chicago area newspapers reported alleged corrupt contracting procedures within the City of Chicago . . . involving Oscar O. D’Angelo and vendors” at O’Hare, the files say. “In 1996, the City finalized negotiations on a ten year lease extension at O’Hare with W.H. Smith, a company which operates newsstands and bookstores. The lease extension allowed W.H. Smith to continue its multi-million dollar business at O’Hare.”
The company “hired the law firm of Altheimer & Gray and D’Angelo to handle its negotiations with the City,” according to the records. “Shortly after the lease was signed, D’Angelo received a $480,000 check from W.H. Smith.
“Allegedly, W.H. Smith cut [name or names blacked out] in on the airport deal based on D’Angelo’s recommendation,” according to the records.
In 2000, the Sun-Times quoted a Daley aide as saying that D’Angelo suggested bringing two friends of Maggie Daley, the mayor’s wife, in on the deal as subcontractors.
“D’Angelo also advised W.H. Smith to make contributions to charities allegedly supported by [name or names blacked out],” according to the FBI records.
The Sun-Times also reported at the time that the donations went to groups and events the Daleys supported.
According to the records, a confidential FBI source told agents that D’Angelo “developed a strong political influence . . . that has spanned the terms of several mayors . . . by ‘corrupting’ people in power that surround the mayor.”
More than two years later, the case was closed, with no one charged. According to the FBI files: “No informants or cooperating witnesses have been identified that would provide insight into the investigation.”
The records also appear to refer to an unnamed FBI special agent on the investigation being assigned full-time to other duties and said the O’Hare probe “will remain inactive.”
W.H. Smith’s O’Hare operations later were sold to a competitor.
D’Angelo’s ties to the Daley family included Daley’s father, the late Mayor Richard J. Daley. D’Angelo supported Daley the first’s controversial plan to raze part of the Near West Side’s Little Italy enclave to build what’s now the University of Illinois at Chicago’s campus.
In the late 1980s, D’Angelo was disbarred as an attorney, cited for ethical lapses that included providing rental cars to judges and other political figures.