Garry McCarthy's mayoral campaign accepted more than $12,000 from a lawyer who was convicted of mail fraud and filing false income tax returns after stealing nearly $1 million from a client who suffered from multiple sclerosis, state and court records show.
McCarthy — the former Chicago police superintendent who bills himself as a "law and order" candidate — reported receiving the donations from 85-year-old Stuart West.
West pleaded guilty in 1985 to charges connected to defrauding Mary Kochton Appley, who was wheelchair-bound at the time of the trial due to multiple sclerosis, according to court documents and a witness at the trial. West served as a financial advisor and sole trustee on two trusts for Appley, and from 1979 to 1982, West carried out an elaborate scheme to embezzle money from the trusts, court records show.
In addition to Appley’s civil case, U.S. prosecutors sought criminal charges against West, and a 1983 grand jury returned a 20-count indictment. In 1985, U.S. District Judge James Moran ordered West to pay $957,000 to Appley, serve seven years in prison, and be placed on probation for five years.
An Appley family member declined to comment when reached by WBEZ.
West voluntarily disbarred himself shortly after his guilty plea, according to records from the Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois.
And West’s run-ins with the law continued. In 2003, then-U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald charged West with filing false income tax returns. West plead guilty to the charges and was ordered to serve two-and-a-half years at a federal prison in 2004.
In addition to his history of filing false income tax returns, West has multiple state and federal tax liens placed on him.
He owes the state of Illinois a total of at least $318,388, plus interest, from two tax liens from 2010 and 2014, according to state records. West also owes the state of Michigan more than $1,400, according to the Ingham County Register of Deeds office in Michigan.
Furthermore, the IRS placed two tax liens on West in 2005 for a total of nearly $2.5 million, according to records from the Cook County Recorder of Deeds.
Attempts to reach West were unsuccessful.
Felons can donate money to political campaigns in Illinois, according to state law, but West’s large donations raise some serious questions about McCarthy’s campaign, said Mary Miro, the executive director of the nonprofit Illinois Campaign for Political Reform, which monitors money in politics.
“When we have large contributions like that, you have to ask yourself how is that candidate then accountable to his funders, to the people who are supporting him?” she said.
John Davis, a communications director for McCarthy’s campaign, issued a statement that did not address West’s criminal history or whether the campaign planned on returning the money.
Mayoral candidate Ja’Mal Green, an activist who has protested against police brutality in Chicago, said West’s contributions to McCarthy’s campaign speaks to the candidate’s “character and judgement.”
“I think Garry is just trying to get money from anyone because he knows that not a lot of people are going to help fund his campaign,” he said. “I don’t think he really cares where his money comes from.”
Caron Brookens, the press secretary for Mayor Rahm Emanuel’s campaign, declined to comment.
McCarthy served as superintendent of the Chicago Police Department from 2011 until 2015, when Emanuel fired him in the aftermath of the video release of the infamous police shooting of Laquan McDonald.
In March, McCarthy announced his mayoral bid and has raised nearly $260,000 since August 1, according to campaign finance reports.
West isn’t the only donor to raise questions about McCarthy’s campaign contributions. In March, the Chicago Tribune reported that attorney Joseph Dombrowski, whose law license has been suspended three times, contributed more than $25,000 to McCarthy’s campaign.
Hunter Clauss is a digital editor at WBEZ. You can follow him at @whuntah.