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Muñoz joins what is becoming Chicago’s least exclusive club

Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz is the first former or sitting Chicago alderperson to be convicted since Ald. Willie Cochran’s 2019 guilty plea added him to the crowd of those who’ve been found guilty of a crime — extortion, embezzlement, tax evasion and bribery among them.

Top row, left to right: Willie Cochran (20th); John Madrzyk (13th); William Beavers (7th); Joseph Jambrone (28th). Middle row, l-r: Joseph Kotlarz (35th); William Carothers (28th); Larry Bloom (5th); Thomas E. Keane (31st). Bottom row, l-r: James Laski (23rd); Edward R. Vrdolyak (10th); Sandi Jackson (7th); Arenda Troutman (20th).
Members of the City Council Hall of Shame: Top row, left to right: Willie Cochran (20th); John Madrzyk (13th); William Beavers (7th); Joseph Jambrone (28th). Middle row, l-r: Joseph Kotlarz (35th); William Carothers (28th); Larry Bloom (5th); Thomas E. Keane (31st). Bottom row, l-r: James Laski (23rd); Edward R. Vrdolyak (10th); Sandi Jackson (7th); Arenda Troutman (20th).
Sun-Times, AP file photos.

Former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) is the latest member the Chicago City Hall of Shame.

With his guilty plea Monday to wire fraud and money laundering, Munoz becomes the 36th member of the City Council to be convicted of a crime since the early 1970s.

There’s no formal induction ceremony — other than any related to whatever penalty will be handed down when the former City Council member is sentenced, now scheduled for Jan. 5.

But either way, Munoz is the first former or sitting Chicago alderperson to be convicted since Ald. Willie Cochran’s 2019 guilty plea added him to the ever-growing roster of those who’ve been found guilty of a crime — extortion, embezzlement, tax evasion and bribery among them.

Since then, state law has changed the name of the office from “alderman” to the more gender neutral “alderperson.”

But whether they like it or not, Munoz and the rest are just as likely to be remembered as “aldercrooks.”

Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse at 219 S. Dearborn St after his hearing in which he plead guilty Monday.
Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz walks out of the Dirksen Federal Courthouse at 219 S. Dearborn St after his hearing in which he plead guilty Monday.
Anthony Vazquez/Sun-Times

Munoz, incidentally, is the first current or former alderperson convicted from the Southwest Side’s 22nd Ward.

Cochran was the third from the South Side’s 20th Ward, following in the sad footsteps of his predecessors Arenda Troutman and Cliff Kelley. Even more sadly, two other wards — the Southwest Side’s 23rd and Northwest Side’s 31st — also count three former alderpersons on the list.

The ranks of the fallen also includes the father and son duo of William Carothers (28th) and Isaac “Ike” Carothers (29th), convicted nearly 30 years apart of unrelated crimes.

And there’s Ambrosio Medrano (25th), the Grover Cleveland of Chicago corruption, earning a place on the list three times for three separate corruption scandals.

The former Southwest Side alderman was first convicted in 1996 for accepting bribes. And then in 2014, two federal judges presiding over separate cases handed Medrano a total of 13 years in prison over corrupt deals involving bribes and kickbacks, although Medrano left prison last year as part of an effort to release inmates who are at-risk of contracting the coronavirus.

So, dating back to 1973, here’s Chicago’s Aldermanic Hall of Shame. Some on the list appear for crimes that occurred after their time in City Council, including James Laski, Ed Vrdolyak and William Beavers.

And the list only includes those actually convicted — not those indicted, but who have not yet gone, or never did go, to trial — in the interest of keeping it to a manageable number.

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.

Ald. Thomas Keane leaves the federal courthouse in 1974 after he is sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Ald. Thomas Keane leaves the federal courthouse in 1974 after he is sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Chicago Sun Times file

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.

Ald. William Carothers (28th), left, in 1981, and his  son, Ald. Isaac “Ike” Carothers (29th), right, in 2010.
Ald. William Carothers (28th), left, in 1981, and his son, Ald. Isaac “Ike” Carothers (29th), right, in 2010.
Sun-Times file photos.

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

Sun-Times file photo.
Ald. Louis P. Farina (36th) in 1976.
Ald. Louis P. Farina (36th) in 1976.

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, 2014
In 2014, 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, along with another conviction that year, after his 2 ½-year sentence in the 1990s for accepting bribes.

Ambrosio Medrano discusses his prison sentence with the Sun-Times in 2014.
Ambrosio Medrano discusses his prison sentence with the Sun-Times in 2014.
Jessica Koscielniak / Sun-Times file

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.

Joseph Martinez, former alderman of the 31st Ward. Sun-Times Photo/ John White in 1981.
Joseph Martinez, former alderman of the 31st Ward. Sun-Times Photo/ John White in 1981.
John White/Sun-Times file

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.

Ald. Virgil Jones (15th) at the federal building in 1999.
Ald. Virgil Jones (15th) at the federal building in 1999.
Chicago Sun Times file

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.

Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak talks on the phone on Election Night at the Bismarck Hotel’s Democratic Party Headquarters in 1982.
Ald. Edward R. Vrdolyak talks on the phone on Election Night at the Bismarck Hotel’s Democratic Party Headquarters in 1982.
Sun-Times archvies

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) - 2019
Cochran pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud for spending money from a ward fund meant for charity on personal expenses.

Ricardo Muñoz (22nd) — 2021
Pleaded guilty Monday to wire fraud and money laundering, admitting he took nearly $38,000 from the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus to pay for personal expenses such as skydiving and a relative’s college tuition.