The FBI just landed another knockout blow to the decades-long corruption that has gripped Chicago. The feds got a long-time Chicago alderman, Daniel Solis, to flip and wear a wire and the dominoes are starting to fall. More is expected to come.
The Chicago Tribune reported that what has become a familiar scene of federal agents rifling through a Chicago alderman’s office played out again this Wednesday, this time on Chicago’s Far South Side as the FBI raided the 34th Ward office of influential Ald. Carrie Austin.
Austin is the second longest-serving active member of the Chicago City Council, and now became yet another veteran alderman to come under the cloud of a federal investigation.
The FBI served a search warrant at his ward office on West 111th Street on Wednesday, as a law enforcement source reported. In a statement, the FBI said it was conducting “court-authorized law enforcement activities” in the area of Austin’s office. But further reasons behind the search were not immediately available.
“Any time the FBI executes a search warrant of an elected official’s government office is a shocking development,” former federal prosecutor, now Mayor Lori Lightfoot said later at an unrelated news conference. “So I know what you know, which is not a lot at this point.”
The raid comes almost a month after 14th Ward Ald. Edward Burke, the City Council’s longest-tenured member, was indicted on sweeping racketeering charges alleging he used his clout to steer business to his private law firm from developers seeking action at City Hall. There was no indication Wednesday’s search was connected to Burke.
Men in slacks, shirts and sunglasses loaded what appeared as computer equipment and other materials into a black SUV parked outside the ward office’s back door, before retreating inside and then emerging to shoo a group of reporters away from the departing vehicle.
The scene outside Austin’s office became a sort of spectacle for a few residents who celebrated the raid or simply stopped to gawk at the sight of a neighborhood titan getting stung by federal heat.
Two men cursed at Austin’s office as they drove past the building. One woman, who declined to be identified, said she welcomed the event. And Preston Brown Jr., a former aldermanic candidate whom Austin edged in the 2019 general election, described the scene as “justice” for Chicago residents.
“I mean, the feds don’t just come raid your office for no reason,” Brown stated for the reporters as he stood outside the 34th Ward office at the intersection of 111th Street and Normal Avenue in the South Side’s Roseland neighborhood.
Meanwhile, some constituents encountered locked doors and confusion.
Thirty City Council members have pleaded guilty or been convicted of crimes related to their official duties since 1972. That number includes former 20th Ward Ald. Willie Cochran, whose lawyer argued in court earlier this month that Cochran shouldn’t serve prison time for his fraud conviction because putting corrupt Chicago aldermen behind bars hasn’t deterred other City Council members from trying to use their office to enrich themselves.
Nevertheless, in a City Council that’s no stranger to federal investigators, aldermen were stunned in January to hear that former Ald. Daniel Solis, 25th, allegedly wore a wire against Burke and possibly others.
After an initial report by the Sun-Times about Solis cooperating with federal investigators, Austin said she was shocked by Solis’ role.