Viagra, sex acts, use of a luxury farm: Feds detail investigation of Ald. Solis
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Retiring Ald. Danny Solis (25th) received sex acts, Viagra, free weekend use of an Indiana farm once owned by Oprah Winfrey and a steady stream of campaign contributions in exchange for shepherding official City Council actions, according to allegations in a federal court affidavit obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times.
The allegations are contained in an explosive search warrant application that helps explain why Solis, the powerful chairman of the City Council’s Zoning Committee, agreed to spend more than two years cooperating in a federal investigation during which he is known to have secretly recorded at least a dozen conversations with Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th), the former chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee.
Although no charges have been filed publicly against Solis, the 2016 affidavit lays out in detail a federal corruption case against the veteran alderman, who was one of the closest City Council allies of Mayor Rahm Emanuel and Emanuel’s predecessor, Richard M. Daley.
It also alleges that among the people recorded as part of the Solis investigation was Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan, D-Chicago, the longest-serving state House speaker in the country.
The 120-page 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.
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It also indicates the Solis probe dates back at least as far as May 2014.
While a federal magistrate judge approved prosecutors’ request in 2016 to search Solis’ homes and offices, records show the search warrant ultimately was not executed at the Zoning Committee’s office on the third-floor of City Hall — a possible indication that Solis agreed to cooperate soon after being confronted by federal authorities.
Joseph Fitzpatrick, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s office, declined to comment on the document.
Ironically, Solis’ office is adjacent to the much larger suite occupied by Burke, who resigned as Finance Committee chairman earlier this month after being charged with attempted extortion for allegedly shaking down a Burger King franchise owner who sought to remodel a restaurant in Burke’s ward. Burke allegedly demanded the franchisee hire his private law firm and make a $10,000 campaign contribution to Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle. He denies any wrongdoing.
During a phone interview with the Chicago Sun-Times earlier this month, Solis, 69, refused to address the salacious allegations against him.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” said Solis, who announced abruptly in late November that he was retiring from politics.
Solis had publicly denied cooperating with the government or wearing a wire. He did not attend the most recent City Council meeting.
The affidavit, sworn out by FBI special agent Steven Noldin, portrays Solis as deeply in debt and routinely on the prowl for sex, Viagra, campaign contributions and other favors.
It accuses veteran political operative and government consultant Roberto Caldero of assisting Solis in those pursuits, including soliciting campaign donations from the Cacciatore family, which, among other businesses, owns Elgin Sweeping Services, a major street-sweeping company.
At the time, Caldero was representing Elgin Sweeping in its efforts to obtain relief from a change in the city’s water billing practices that investigators indicated could have cost the company more than $1 million. Elgin Sweeping had a city contract to provide street sweeping services and at the time relied on filling its equipment at city fire hydrants.
During several wiretapped conversations, Solis and Caldero made plans to exchange Viagra or visit massage parlors while also discussing how the alderman might help Elgin Sweeping reduce its water bill.
In late 2014, Solis allegedly placed a series of calls and texts to Caldero asking if he had any of that “blue medicine,” meaning Viagra, according to the feds.
At one point, Caldero explained that the Affordable Care Act had made it more difficult to get Viagra and that the price had climbed to $400 for 10 pills, which surprised the alderman.
In July 2015, Solis called Caldero with another request.
“I want to get a good massage, with a nice ending. Do you know any good places?” the alderman said.
When Caldero promised to arrange the liaison, Solis asked, “What kind of women do they got there?”
“Asian,” Caldero said.
“Oh good. Good, good, good. I like Asian,” Solis said.
In an interview, Caldero acknowledged providing Solis with Viagra and arranging massage parlor visits, but said he did so out of friendship, not to curry favor for a client.
“If Danny asked me for almost anything, I would do it. It’s never been a quid pro quo,” said Caldero, 65, a longtime friend of both Solis and former U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez, D-Ill.
Caldero traced his relationship with Solis to their days as students at the University of Illinois at Chicago when they were both arrested in a protest over low Hispanic enrollment.
Caldero also said there was nothing improper about Elgin Sweeping seeking relief from the city’s plan to increase its water bill by hundreds of thousands of dollars annually.
The Cacciatore family has major real estate holdings in the 25th Ward and had donated regularly to Solis for many years, Caldero said.
Caldero said federal investigators have not contacted him. Elgin Sweeping President Chris Cacciatore could not be reached for comment.
Other allegations outlined in the search warrant application involve developer Fred Latsko, who in 2015 allegedly provided Solis with free weekend use of a 180-acre Indiana farm for a graduation party for Solis’ son.
The farm previously had been owned by billionaire talk show diva Oprah Winfrey. When Latsko purchased the property in 2011, news stories indicated he planned to charge $20,000 a day to rent out the property for special occasions.
Asked for comment, Latsko sent a text saying he hadn’t offered the farm for lease since 2012.
“We have hosted hundreds of friends and their families,” he wrote. “Needless to say Danny was not charged anything. He and [Solis’ son] are my friends and we had a nice bbq.”
Investigators also alleged that Latsko agreed to help Solis take “economic revenge” on his daughter’s former business partners by leasing away from them a property they had used to operate a dance studio. But the deal never took place.
During the same time period, Solis proposed a city ordinance “favorable to Latsko’s business interests” and participated in city approval of multiple Latsko real estate projects, investigators said in the affidavit.
Asked whether there was a quid pro quo, Latsko said in a text message that it was “certainly not the case. Nonetheless, I am sure the feds will sort out any irregularities.”
Solis is further accused of agreeing with Monterrey Security founder Juan Gaytan to “accept a gratuity from McHugh Construction” as a reward for “official acts” favoring McHugh’s efforts to win approval of “a 500-room hotel and data center project” near McCormick Place. Gaytan is a personal friend of McHugh vice president Michael Meagher. Gaytan did not return a message seeking comment.
Meagher told the Sun-Times: “We donate to a lot of aldermen who are pro-building. And Ald. Solis is pro-building.”
Gaytan, a former Chicago police officer, started Monterrey along with Solis’ brother, former Chicago firefighter Santiago Solis. Monterrey has provided security for events at Soldier Field.
In addition, Solis was recorded soliciting campaign donations from attorney and political powerbroker Victor Reyes, who in turn allegedly complained that Solis never steers him any business, according to the affidavit.
Reyes told Solis that several other aldermen had all steered clients to him, according to the affidavit.
“You haven’t sent me any. I don’t know why,” Reyes told Solis.
Solis then promised he would make it up to Reyes by sending him “more business than what, what you raise,” according to the affidavit.
Reyes is the former chief of the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization (HDO), which was at the center of a city hiring scandal when Richard M. Daley was mayor.
Reyes said in a recent interview he could not recall such a conversation with Solis.
“He’s never given me any business, and I’ve never asked him. I don’t recall that. I don’t know what he would do for me, to be honest with you,” Reyes said.
Reyes said he has not had a “strong relationship” with Solis since he helped get the aldermen elected to his first two terms after Solis was appointed to the office by Daley in 1996.
Told of the explosive nature of the charges against Solis, Reyes said, “If what you’re telling me is correct and true, it seems to indicate that he was thoroughly corrupt.”
Throughout the federal wiretapping and video surveillance, Solis was being hounded by debt collectors after recently going through a foreclosure on his home.
At one point, Solis got a call from Monterrey Collection Services about an overdue $12,274 debt.
The alderman, whose annual salary is $117,833, said that he was “out of a job, so I’m sorry.” Pressed for information on the delinquency, he said, “I can’t pay it. I’m sorry.”