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Ex-state Rep. Luis Arroyo, charged in bribery case, pleads not guilty

Arroyo also waived indictment by a grand jury, another key signal he eventually plans to plead guilty.

Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo on Tuesday walks out of the Dirksen Federal Court Building after pleading not guilty to a charge of bribery.
Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo on Tuesday walks out of the Dirksen Federal Court Building after pleading not guilty to a charge of bribery.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo pleaded not guilty to a bribery charge Tuesday, but he also waived his right to be indicted by a federal grand jury, again signaling plans to eventually plead guilty in his corruption case.

Arroyo’s arraignment before U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger lasted roughly five minutes. When it was over he quickly left the Dirksen Federal Courthouse, declining along with his defense attorney, Michael Gillespie, to speak to reporters.

Seeger set a March 17 status date in Arroyo’s case and he told Arroyo he didn’t need to attend.

Despite the plea, the machinations of Tuesday’s hearing still signaled an eventual plea of guilty. Arroyo’s indictment waiver means prosecutors will not have to take their case against him to a grand jury, which would have to find probable cause for the charge against him.

That move followed last month’s filing of a one-page charging document against Arroyo known as an information. Though it repeated allegations first made against him in October, the filing was significant because it also typically signals a guilty plea.

Multiple calls seeking comment from Gillespie have gone unreturned. Arroyo is one of four elected officials charged as a result of the feds’ ongoing criminal investigations into public corruption. Last week, former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to a bribery scheme involving red-light cameras.

Prosecutors first charged Arroyo with bribery in a criminal complaint in October. In doing so, they revealed a state senator had been cooperating with them off and on since 2016. The complaint did not name the senator, but a source identified that person as Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills. Link has publicly denied it. Arroyo resigned from the House.

The case outlined last fall against Arroyo revolved around his lobbying work in Chicago as manager of Spartacus 3 LLC. Arroyo signed a deal between Spartacus 3 and V.S.S. Inc. in August 2018 that promised $2,500 in monthly payments from V.S.S. to Spartacus. V.S.S. had hired Arroyo’s company to lobby the Chicago City Council for a sweepstakes ordinance, according to the feds.

Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo walks into the Dirksen Federal Court Building Tuesday before he pleads not guilty to a bribery charge.
Ex-State Rep. Luis Arroyo walks into the Dirksen Federal Court Building Tuesday before he pleads not guilty to a bribery charge.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times

Sweepstakes machines are not regulated by the Illinois Gaming Board but look like regular slot machines.

Arroyo approached Link during last year’s spring legislative session about sweepstakes legislation and then reached out again late in July, according to the complaint, which does not name Link but refers to him as Cooperating Witness 1. On Aug. 2, the two men met at a Highland Park restaurant with an unnamed individual and that person’s associate. Arroyo said he needed Link to support the legislation in the Senate.

Later, Link asked to speak alone with Arroyo. When they stepped outside, Link allegedly said, “This is you and I talkin’ now . . . nobody else.” And Arroyo allegedly replied, “Whatever you tell me . . . stays between you and me.”

Federal investigators were conducting surveillance, the document said.

Arroyo went on to explain that he was a “paid consultant” and told Link, “If you put a price on it, I mean, if you want to get paid, you want somebody else to get a check monthly, a monthly stipend, we could put them on contract. We could put you on a contract. You tell me what it is. Tell me what you need.”

Link allegedly acknowledged, “I’m lookin’ for something, you know? I’m in the twilight, you know.”

Arroyo allegedly explained how he had been making $2,500 a month and said, “That would be guarantee from me to you.” Link replied, “All right.” Arroyo went on to say, “My word is my bond and my, my reputation.”

The feds say the men met again Aug. 22 at a restaurant in Skokie, where Arroyo allegedly handed over a check for $2,500. It had been written over to a name the feds had told Link to give to Arroyo. The payments were expected to continue for six to 12 months.

“I’m going to give you this here,” Arroyo allegedly said. “This is, this is, this is the jackpot.”