Telling three-times convicted former Chicago alderman Ambrosio Medrano that he had pulled off an “unprecedented … corruption trifecta,” a federal judge on Monday tacked an extra 2½ years onto the end of the 10½-year prison term the disgraced politician was handed last week.
U.S. District Judge John Tharp gave the disgraced politician the additional 30 months for paying a bribe to seal a dirty deal to win medical contracts from Los Angeles County.
Though another federal judge, Gary Feinerman, had just four days earlier handed Medrano 10½ years for a similar scam in Cook County, and Medrano’s lawyer warned that any extra time would like be a “death sentence” for the diabetic 60-year-old, Tharp said he needed to send a message that “there is no free pass for public corruption.”
The sentence means that Medrano — already the only former Chicago alderman to be convicted of public corruption on more than occasion — has now been given more total federal prison time than any public official in Chicago history.
When added to the 2½-year sentence he was handed in the 1990s for accepting bribes while on Chicago’s City Council, the 13-year sentence he’ll begin serving March 21 eclipses the previous record of 15 years handed to former Cook County Judge Thomas J. Maloney in 1994 for accepting bribes to fix murder trials.
Medrano was convicted of the Los Angeles County scam at a jury trial last June, after FBI informant Michael DiFoggio helped set him up.
Secretly recorded videos played during the trial showed Medrano and co-defendants Gus Buenrostro and Jim Barta plotting to pay a $10,000 bribe to an L.A. County official to fix a contract for Barta’s business.
At one point Medrano was shown suggesting the plotters seal the deal by cutting their fingers in a Mafia-style blood oath, while in another he suggested disguising the bribe as a “golf outing” ticket. “That’s what’s popular in Chicago,” he told an undercover FBI agent.
Medrano, who once boasted that he wanted to be a “pig” who feasted on government contracts, on Monday repeated his apologies to the court, his family and the Southwest Side community he represented first as an alderman and more recently as an aide to disgraced former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno.
But Tharp wasn’t buying it. He read back a transcript of an almost identical apology Medrano gave when he was first convicted more than 15 years ago, in which Medrano said there was “no end to the pain and sorrow I feel.”
“Apparently there was an end because you returned to the same conduct,” the judge said, declaring himself “baffled” that Medrano could be so stupid.
By being convicted “as an elected official, as a government employee and now as a member of the public,” he had pulled off a rare hat trick, the judge said, adding, “It’s not a record to be proud of.”
Medrano’s attorney Gal Pissetzky vowed to appeal. The 2½-year sentence should be served concurrently with the 10½-year term, he said.