A former ComEd executive pleaded guilty to a corruption charge Tuesday, helping the feds nab their first conviction in an ongoing criminal probe into a political bribery scheme that has implicated Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.
Fidel Marquez also joined the utility in agreeing to cooperate with federal prosecutors, a move that could ultimately help him avoid prison.
Marquez was among those implicated earlier this summer when federal prosecutors first filed a bribery charge against ComEd, alleging it sent $1.3 million to Madigan’s associates while hoping to land Madigan’s support for key legislation.
But earlier this month, prosecutors filed a separate document charging Marquez with a bribery conspiracy. They specifically pointed to a $37,500 payment Marquez made to an intermediary company in 2018, “a substantial portion of which was intended for” Madigan’s associates.
No other individuals have been criminally charged as part of the case. That includes Madigan, who has denied wrongdoing and is identified in documents not by name, but as “Public Official A.” He was also described in court Tuesday as someone who could “serve as a very powerful and persuasive force to move legislation forward.”
The allegations have now become the focus of a special legislative committee in Springfield that began meeting just after Marquez’s court appearance Tuesday.
Marquez, 58, served as ComEd’s senior vice president of governmental and external affairs from March 2012 to September 2019. In a divorce proceeding earlier this year, Marquez testified that, “mid-September 2019, I was informed that I would be retiring.” He later added, “It wasn’t subject to further discussion.”
Marquez entered his guilty plea Tuesday before U.S. District Judge Mary Rowland. He did so by video conference due to the pandemic. The details of the case laid out in a 24-page plea agreement largely reflected the details in the ComEd case, which alleged that ComEd funneled money through another company to pay Madigan’s associates in order to influence Madigan.
The feds have avoided mentioning names while laying out their allegations, but the Chicago Sun-Times has identified certain individuals involved in the scheme, including Madigan ally Mike McClain and former City Club president Jay Doherty.
Marquez’s plea agreement states that, in 2013, Marquez learned that Madigan associates were being paid through a firm that belonged to Doherty. He learned it from McClain, who asked that a Madigan associate paid through his firm be shifted to Doherty’s.
McClain allegedly did not describe any work being done by the associates at the time, but rather “how close they were to Public Official A” — Madigan.
Marquez agreed to make the move. Then he agreed to move that Madigan associate to another intermediary again in 2016. In 2018, Marquez agreed to help set up a similar arrangement with yet another Madigan associate at Doherty’s firm.
Neither Doherty nor an attorney representing McClain could be reached for comment Tuesday.
In July 2018, Marquez sent a $37,500 payment to Doherty’s company, “a substantial portion of which” was intended for Madigan’s associates, according to the plea agreement.