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Aldermen named in secretly recorded chat admit sending business to Reyes’ firm

Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno endorsement 1st ward 2019 election | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

1st Ward Ald. Proco "Joe" Moreno acknowledges suggesting the services of political powerbroker and lawyer Victor Reyes but denied any quid pro quo. | Rich Hein/Sun-Times

Ald. Danny Solis wanted lawyer and political power broker Victor Reyes to help raise money for him, but Reyes had a complaint, according to a transcript of an August 2015 cellphone call between the men secretly recorded by the FBI.

Reyes said four other aldermen  — George Cardenas (12th), Roberto Maldonado (26th), Proco Joe Moreno (1st) and  Rick Munoz (22nd) — had referred him business. But Reyes griped that Solis, then the powerful chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, had given him nothing.

“How about anything? How about anything, Danny?” Reyes is quoted as saying in the transcript in the explosive federal affidavit obtained by the Sun-Times. “How about anything. Not just the big one. How ’bout one f—ing thing … Maldonado sends me business. Moreno sends me business.”

“I will. I will,” Solis said.

“Rick Munoz sends me business,” Reyes continued.

“I will send you business this month,” Solis said.

“You haven’t sent me any. I don’t know why,” Reyes said.

Two of the aldermen named by Reyes in the transcript — Cardenas and Moreno — acknowledged having steered business to Reyes but denied any quid pro quo, even though they received campaign contributions from Reyes’ firms. The other two, Maldonado and Munoz, could not be reached for comment.

No one has accused Reyes or the aldermen of any wrongdoing. Solis has not been charged with any crime, but after the feds amassed a significant case on him — as detailed in a 120-page affidavit to justify searching Solis’ offices and homes — Solis began cooperating with the FBI and secretly recording conversations for them, including more than a dozen with Ald. Ed Burke (14th).

In a statement to the Sun-Times, Reyes said he did not recall that particular conversation with Solis.

“I talk to politicians all day long. When I was a young man, there were few openings for Latinos in this city,” Reyes said.

“It’s been my life’s work to create opportunity for my community. To see politicians who I’ve supported break the public trust and enrich themselves instead of the people they represent upsets me to the core.”

In an interview, Moreno likened the recommendation to suggesting a plumber or an electrician to a homeowner in need of a repair and looking for a referral who could be trusted to do reliable work.

Proco Joe Moreno

Ald. Proco Joe Moreno in a meeting with the Sun-Times Editorial Board. Rich Hein/Sun-Times file photo

“There are many times people would ask: ‘I’ve got this issue. I want to work with a zoning attorney.’ And what I always say is, ‘I know people. You do not need to use them,’” Moreno said.

“I only refer if people ask me. I don’t ever say, `You need to use this person’ — ever. But people do ask. They have asked many times: ‘Do you know of a zoning attorney? Do you know of an architect?’ And I always say the same thing: ‘I can give you a couple of names. But if you don’t want to use them, that’s totally up to you. And it doesn’t determine anything.’”

Moreno made no apologies for the referrals — two or three times over the last seven or eight years, he said — and he does not believe there was any pressure.

Records show Moreno received $4,000 in campaign contributions from the Reyes-affiliated The Roosevelt Group and $3,250 from the law firm Reyes Kurson where Reyes is a founding partner.

But Moreno argued those referrals were never “based on” or in exchange for campaign contributions.

“I’m just trying to help people and get nothing out of it. And it gets turned into a very nefarious situation. It’s unfortunate,” Moreno said.

Ald. George Cardenas (12th) also acknowledged referring business to Reyes, even though he said that, “Victor and I don’t talk regularly.”

But he categorically denied that the referrals were in exchange for the $8,500 in campaign contributions he has received from Reyes’ firms in recent years.

George Cardenas

Ald. George Cardenas at a Chicago City Council meeting in a 2015 file photo. | Brian Jackson/For the Chicago Sun-Times

“In years past, I’m sure there were projects that he represented that got done in the ward. Yes. I’m sure that happened. But it cycles. And it’s not anything in particular that I make a point to say, ‘I’m gonna save you something and I expect something in return,'” Cardenas said.

He added, “There’s nothing that I got out of it. It doesn’t flow that way.”

Munoz and Maldonado could not be reached for comment.

Reyes is a former political operative for Mayor Richard M. Daley. Reyes ran the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization that was at the center of the city hiring scandal.

Reyes’ and the aldermen’s names surfaced in an explosive application for a search warrant that alleges Solis received sex acts, Viagra, free weekend use of an Indiana farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey and a steady stream of campaign contributions in exchanges for shepherding City Council actions.

The affidavit shows federal investigators listened in on more than 18,000 conversations on one of Solis’ cellphones over the course of at least a year, while also conducting surveillance of his private meetings and trips to massage parlors.

The affidavit indicates the Solis probe dates to at least May 2014.

The FBI agent wrote that he believes Solis “promised to direct individuals with business before the city to Reyes in return for Reyes’ financial support.” The agent further wrote that he believed Solis was promising to generate “business revenue for Reyes that would exceed the total amount Reyes contributed to Solis for his fundraiser.”

The Reyes Kurson law firm contributed $1,250 to Solis’ 25th Ward Regular Democratic Organization in March 2013, $1,500 in September 2013, $1,000 in April 2014 and $1,500 in September 2015, records show. The Roosevelt Group, another Reyes’ affiliated firm, also contributed $1,500 to Solis’ ward organization in 2015, the affidavit states.

Contributing: Jon Seidel

THE STORY SO FAR:

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