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Political operative William Helm charged with bribing ex-state Sen. Martin Sandoval

The case centers on an unnamed construction company needing state approval for a development project in East Dundee in 2017.

Former Deputy Chicago Aviation Commissioner Bill Helm.
Provided photo

An old-school political operative and former city deputy aviation commissioner whose name has surfaced repeatedly in ongoing public corruption investigations now faces a federal bribery charge.

Federal prosecutors filed a two-page, lightly detailed indictment Thursday against William A. Helm, accusing him of bribing former state Sen. Martin Sandoval in 2018. Sandoval has already pleaded guilty in a separate case and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.

The case against Helm revolves around an unnamed construction company involved in a development project in northwest suburban East Dundee in 2017. It sought approval from the Illinois Department of Transportation that year “for signalization and roadwork.”

The company recruited Helm and his consulting company to help secure IDOT approval, according to the indictment. Meanwhile, Sandoval served as head of the Senate’s transportation committee and “was in a position to assist,” the feds say.

Former State Sen. Martin Sandoval walks out of the Dirksen Federal Building after his arraignment hearing on Jan. 28 in Chicago.
Former State Sen. Martin Sandoval, right, walks out of the Dirksen Federal Building after his arraignment hearing on Jan. 28 in Chicago.
Tyler LaRiviere/Sun-Times file photo

Helm allegedly bribed Sandoval with an unspecified amount of money to secure the IDOT approval, according to the indictment.

Helm could not immediately be reached for comment Thursday evening. But his name has previously surfaced in search warrants relating to the feds’ ongoing investigations, records show. One was used when the FBI searched Sandoval’s Springfield offices in September. Another came a short time later, when the feds hit the tiny southwest suburb of McCook and the offices of its mayor, Jeff Tobolski, who is also a Cook County commissioner.

A source said Helm and Tobolski “are very close, political allies.” Helm is also a longtime friend of Tobolski’s top county aide, Patrick Doherty.

Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski attends a recent board meeting of the Cook County Forrest Preserve at the County Building.
Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski attends a recent board meeting of the Cook County Forrest Preserve at the County Building.
Ashlee Rezin Garcia/Sun-Times file photo

The feds charged Doherty last month with three bribery counts related to his work as a paid consultant for the red-light camera company SafeSpeed LLC. His indictment alleges he conspired in 2017 with another sales agent and someone with an interest in SafeSpeed to pay off a relative of an Oak Lawn trustee to support the installation of cameras.

SafeSpeed has denied any wrongdoing.

Helm also worked as a paid sales representative for SafeSpeed while on the city payroll, the Chicago Sun-Times has reported. The company paid him a commission on red-light tickets written in Matteson and Glendale Heights, records show.

Helm’s arraignment had not been set as of Thursday evening.

Contributing: Robert Herguth and Mark Brown