Federal prosecutors filed a long-anticipated criminal charge Wednesday against a man whose key role years ago in the public corruption investigation embroiling city and state politics helped lead to last year’s indictment of Ald. Edward M. Burke.
See Y. Wong made a secret 2014 audio and video recording for the feds of then-Ald. Danny Solis and House Speaker Michael Madigan, according to court records and sources. That recording became part of the investigation that persuaded Solis to then secretly record Burke.
But Wong helped the feds only because he hoped a judge would one day go easy on him for a fraud that had yet to be identified — until Wednesday. That’s when federal prosecutors filed a seven-page charging document known as an information that accused Wong of wire fraud.
Wong is due for arraignment Tuesday. Though the filing of an information is typically a sign a defendant plans to plead guilty, it’s unclear if that will happen next week. Wong’s attorney, Daniel Hesler, did not return messages.
Wong’s alleged scam revolved around the Canal Crossing condominium development in Chinatown. Wong is accused of lying to buyers and to Cathay Bank. The bank loaned $13.7 million for the project to Emerald Homes, of which Wong was an owner. The feds say the scheme cost the bank $1.8 million and buyers of the condominiums $1 million.
Specifically, the feds pointed to a $170,100 wire transfer Wong made nearly 10 years ago, on May 18, 2010.
The case is a reminder of the early origins of a public corruption investigation that only became publicly known in November 2018, when the FBI raided Burke’s City Hall and ward offices more than a month before he was charged in a criminal complaint.
The Chicago Sun-Times first identified Wong and reported on his recording of Madigan and Solis in January 2019. The newspaper also revealed Solis’ cooperation that month. The details of Wong’s recording were contained in a bombshell 120-page federal court affidavit the Sun-Times first obtained. Citing the meeting with Wong, it alleged, “Solis has agreed to take action in his official capacity as an alderman for private benefits directed to Michael Madigan.”
Madigan, whose allies have been circled by the feds, has repeatedly denied wrongdoing. Solis went into hiding after the Sun-Times exposed his cooperation, and his term on the City Council expired last year.
Wong first began providing information to the FBI in May 2014, according to the affidavit. He represented a Chinese businessman seeking a zoning change in Chinatown to build a hotel on South Archer. To do so he went through Solis — then the head of the City Council’s zoning committee — and wound up in August 2014 in a meeting with Solis and Madigan.
The meeting took place at Madigan’s private law firm of Madigan & Getzendanner. Among the topics discussed were the law firm’s fees. Madigan made clear he was interested in a long-term deal with the hotel developer.
“We’re not interested in a quick killing here,” Madigan said during the meeting. “We’re interested in a long-term relationship.”
In addition to the hotel, the men also discussed a parking lot at Cermak Road and Wentworth Avenue. A developer years later would try to slip legislation through the Illinois General Assembly, with support from Solis, that would have transferred the property from the state to the city to clear the way for a project he was proposing.
By then, Solis had also begun to cooperate with the feds.
Contributing: Mark Brown and Tim Novak