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Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz charged by feds for allegedly using Progressive Reform Caucus money on personal expenses

A 29-page indictment made public Thursday also indicates that Munoz’s behavior continued even after the feds’ aggressive pursuit of public corruption had blown into full view in November 2018. 

Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) speaks during a Chicago City Council meeting in 2017. Munoz was charged in a federal indictment Thursday, federal authorities announced.
Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) speaks during a Chicago City Council meeting in 2017. Munoz was charged in a federal indictment Thursday, federal authorities announced.
Sun-Times file photo

Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz once led the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus, meant to “create a more just and equal Chicago,” the feds say.

But prosecutors allege the onetime veteran alderman used its accounts as a personal piggy bank, stealing thousands to pay for a relative’s college tuition, skydiving excursions, travel expenses, a hotel stay — and even at Lover’s Lane.

A 29-page indictment made public Thursday also indicates that Munoz’s behavior continued even after the feds’ aggressive pursuit of public corruption had blown into full view in November 2018.

Now, Munoz faces 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering. His arraignment had not been scheduled as of Thursday afternoon. His attorney, Richard Kling, said he had not yet seen the indictment and wanted to read it before commenting.

Munoz late Thursday afternoon responded to a text message about the indictment with: “Just reading it now.”

Ald. Michael Rodriguez (22nd), Munoz’s hand-picked City Council replacement, issued a statement: “I believe in restorative justice practices and Ricardo Munoz has restoring to do.” He added, “In the last part of his time in office, his actions and decisions caused harm. I am saddened by what has occurred and wish for him full recovery from his addictions while he takes the steps necessary to restore justice to those who have been wronged.”

Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) at a Chicago City Council meeting in 2018.
Former Ald. Ricardo Munoz (22nd) at a Chicago City Council meeting in 2018.
Foto de archivo Sun-Times

Munoz, 56, was forced into retirement in 2019 after his wife accused him of physically abusing her. A Cook County judge found him not guilty of misdemeanor domestic battery in June of that year. He was also in counseling that summer for alcoholism.

Meanwhile, the feds’ new indictment suggests Munoz had brazenly dipped into Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus funds, then tried to cover his tracks by repaying the money or by claiming the stolen funds were for “consulting” or “Election Day expenses.”

It alleges he transferred $16,000 in October 2016 from the progressive caucus account to a joint account he held with a family member, and then transferred $15,254 from the joint account to an out-of-state university to cover tuition.

In December 2016, Munoz allegedly transferred $16,000 from a loan into the progressive caucus account. Then, in an email, Munoz allegedly told someone who helped prepare reports to the State Board of Elections the original transfer did not need to be reported because the money was returned the same quarter.

The indictment also alleges Munoz transferred $9,400 out of the progressive reform account in October 2018, as well as another $500 in December 2018. In November and December 2018, Munoz allegedly made more than $10,000 in cash withdrawals from the progressive reform caucus account.

In November and December 2018, the indictment alleges Munoz also used a progressive caucus debit card to pay for Southwest Airlines tickets, Los Angeles Kings tickets and a Los Angeles Crowne Plaza hotel stay, as well as at Eddie V’s Prime Seafood.

Federal authorities famously raided the City Hall offices of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) late in November 2018, a move that first made public the feds’ ongoing public corruption investigations.

On Feb. 12, 2019, Munoz allegedly used the progressive caucus debit card to spend $160.48 at Lover’s Lane.

Finally, between January and March 2019, the indictment alleges Munoz kept others away from the progressive reform caucus account to avoid detection. He allegedly told someone in an Apple iMessage that, “Bottom line. Progressive Caucus has 11K.”

Munoz knew the account’s balance was “substantially less than that” at the time, the indictment says.

Contributing: Fran Spielman