Longtime lawmaker Terry Link hit with federal tax charge

It has been nearly a year since a source identified Link as the unnamed state senator who cooperated with the feds against another state lawmaker, then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo.

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State Sen. Terry Link

State Senator Terry Link

Brian O’Mahoney/For Sun-Times Me

Ten months ago, Terry Link insisted he was not the unnamed state senator who turned on a fellow lawmaker, Rep. Luis Arroyo, and wore a wire for the feds.

He denied it after a source confirmed to the Chicago Sun-Times that Link was the same senator who had been caught submitting false income tax returns to the IRS, expected to be charged for it, and cooperated because he hoped it’d earn him some leniency at sentencing.

But now, Link has been charged in federal court with filing a false income tax return for the year 2016, in which he claimed his income was $264,450 even though he knew his total income “substantially exceeded that amount.”

Neither Link nor his criminal defense attorney could immediately be reached for comment after the charge was filed Thursday. Prosecutors charged the Vernon Hills Democrat in a document known as an information, a typical sign a defendant plans to plead guilty.

Republicans have previously pushed for Link to step down from his role as a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission. On Thursday, he did just that, according to John Patterson, a spokesman for Senate President Don Harmon.

“President Harmon has accepted Senator Link’s resignation as a member of the Legislative Ethics Commission,” Patterson said in an email.

The case against Link, 73, is just the latest shoe to drop in a series of ongoing public corruption investigations that appear to be picking up steam again following the onset of the coronavirus pandemic. Last month, prosecutors charged ComEd with bribery in a case that implicated House Speaker Michael Madigan — who has not been criminally charged and denies wrongdoing. And last week, they charged Crestwood Mayor Louis Presta in a bribery case involving the politically connected red-light camera company SafeSpeed. 

Presta pleaded not guilty Thursday.

The feds’ investigations have also led to charges against former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, and Sen. Thomas Cullerton, who remains in office. Both are Democrats.

Link has been the head of the Lake County Democratic Party since 1992. He’s a former poker buddy of ex-President Barack Obama, dating back to the days when the two served together in the state Senate. Obama even mentioned Link in his 2016 speech to the Illinois General Assembly in Springfield. Though Link ran for mayor of Waukegan in 2013, he came in last in a three-way Democratic primary. 

He has long been an advocate of gambling expansion, and he finally won his fight for a Waukegan casino with the gambling expansion law signed by Gov. J.B. Pritzker last year. 

But a cloud also formed over Link last year when a source confirmed he was the unnamed senator who wore a wire against then-Rep. Arroyo, who was accused in October of trying to bribe the senator to introduce legislation that would legalize sweepstakes machines. Arroyo resigned from his seat in the House and has so far pleaded not guilty. 

While seeking what would turn out to be a $2,500 payment from Arroyo, Link allegedly told him, “I’m lookin’ for something, you know? I’m in the twilight, you know.”

Following the charges against Arroyo, Link denied he was the unnamed senator. He first denied it to WBEZ, and then again to reporters in Springfield the next day while helping pass bills in the legislature.

“I said, what’s your source? You answer me. You’re a reporter,” Link said that day when asked if he wore a wire on Arroyo. “I answered the question yesterday. I’m not going to continually answer this every day of my life. I’m down here to do a job that I was elected to do, and that’s what I’m gonna do.”

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