Feds: Solis used campaign cash for tuition, toddler togs, trips to Mario Tricoci
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A bombshell federal court document laying out a potential corruption case against retiring Ald. Danny Solis (25th) not only depicts a politician badly in debt — but one whose campaign funds appear to have been used for blatantly personal expenses.
The 120-page affidavit obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times describes nearly $17,000 in personal expenses appearing on a credit card account for Solis’ 25th Ward Regular Democratic Organization for trips to a hair salon, toddler clothes and school tuition.
Investigators also suspected that money loaned to Solis from the ward bank account went to pay a debt to the Internal Revenue Service and to Paleo Fit Meals. Solis’ daughter, Sol Solis, has identified herself as the owner of Paleo Fit Meals on her LinkedIn profile.
It’s the kind of activity that has contributed to the downfall of many a Chicago politician — generally when it’s linked to other illegal activity, such as not paying taxes on the campaign money used for personal use or tying the contributions to official acts done as favors for the donors.
The information on Solis’ campaign activity is apparently just a small part of the mountain of evidence the feds compiled against Solis, helping explain why Solis 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).
Burke is now the former chairman of the City Council’s Finance Committee. And Tuesday, hours after the Sun-Times revealed the contents of the explosive document, Solis stepped down as chair of the council’s Zoning Committee.
Federal prosecutors charged Burke early this month with attempted extortion for allegedly shaking down a Burger King franchise owner who sought to remodel a restaurant in Burke’s ward. No criminal charges have been filed against Solis.
Solis could not be reached for comment Wednesday. He has gone underground ever since the Sun-Times reported he secretly recorded conversations for the feds.
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Most of the personal purchases and payments described in the affidavit were made on 25th Ward credit cards in the name of Solis and his sister, Grace Perales — who also could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The purchases date back to Christmas Eve 2009, when a credit card in Solis’ name was used to pay $100 to a Mario Tricoci hair salon. Payments and purchases on Solis’ card also included a $246.38 payment on April 5, 2010 for an eye exam; a $2,567 payment on October 25, 2011 to an orthodontist; $180.68 on Nov. 4, 2012 to Macy’s for items that included a “boys 8-20 Polo”; $40.31 on May 19, 2013 to Nordstrom for “kids shoes”; and $131.08 on Dec. 23, 2013 to Macy’s for “cookware.”
The Solis credit card was also used in 2014 to make monthly payments of $1,185 until $12,510.70 had been paid to The Frances Xavier Warde School, where Solis’ son was apparently enrolled around the same time.
The purchases made on Perales’ cards included $70.96 on Nov. 14, 2010 at J.C. Penney for “toddler separate infant sleepwear girls playwear”; $404.80 on Sept. 5, 2011 at Babies R Us for “childrens clothing extended payment option”; $156.24 on September 30, 2012 to a Mario Tricoci hair salon; another $197 on Nov. 25, 2013 to the hair salon; and $299 on March 14, 2014 to Le Petite Skin Boutique.
Investigators also examined the 25th Ward bank account used to pay for the credit card charges. They concluded Solis used two loans he took from the account to pay for personal expenses.
The feds tied a $15,000 April 2012 loan to a $15,809 payment in May 2012 to the IRS. Solis then made a $15,000 deposit back into the ward account in June 2012, according to the affidavit.
They also connected a $5,000 December 2012 loan to a $5,000 payment that same month to Paleo Fit Meals. Solis then put $5,000 back into the ward account in April 2013, the document states.
The feds explained in their 2016 affidavit that Solis had poor credit and multiple unpaid debts. They pointed to a May 28, 2015 phone call Solis received from Byline Bank. During the call, Solis claimed “he had done pretty well financially in the past several years” but also explained “he experienced a foreclosure on a home three years earlier.”
A month earlier, Solis received a call from Monterey Collection Services, according to the affidavit. During the call, Solis was told he owed $12,274 in fees for a time-share contract.
Solis told the caller he was “out of a job so I’m sorry.” When the caller pressed, Solis allegedly said, “because I can’t pay it, I’m sorry.”
Then he hung up the phone.
Contributing: Fran Spielman, Tim Novak