A newly-filed federal tax-evasion indictment against a former member of ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan’s leadership team stems at least in part from secret payments for “government relations” work from Commonwealth Edison.
A source familiar with the federal probe tells WBEZ that a six-count indictment against former state Rep. Edward Acevedo, D-Chicago, is a byproduct from the ongoing bribery investigation into ComEd’s Springfield lobbying practices. The source spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk publicly about an ongoing criminal investigation.
Federal charging documents released late Wednesday against Acevedo and separate tax-evasion charges against his two sons, Alex and Michael Acevedo, do not make that connection clear.
But the source said the case relates, in part, to unreported income originating from ComEd that Acevedo received from a company called Apex Strategy. State records show his son, Michael, created the company in 2015, and all three family members were at one point registered lobbyists for the firm.
The former lawmaker, Edward Acevedo, served in the Illinois House from 1997 through 2017 and for 14 years had unique access to Madigan as an assistant majority leader.
Apex Strategy got its first “government relations services” contract with ComEd in July 2015, according to emails ComEd produced last fall to a special House committee investigating possible misconduct by Madigan related to the bribery scandal.
Acevedo did not disclose that familial conflict of interest when he co-sponsored and voted for the ComEd-backed Future Energy Jobs Act in December 2016, which has been singled out as one key legislative measure that passed in Springfield while ComEd was bribing associates of Madigan’s between 2011 and 2019.
“Watch the booze”
Upon Acevedo’s departure from the legislature in January 2017, he soon became a focal point of discussion about a potential lobbying gig between now-indicted ComEd lobbyist Michael McClain and the company’s former top in-house lobbyist, Fidel Marquez, who pleaded guilty to one count of bribery conspiracy last fall and is cooperating with federal investigators
On Jan. 11, 2017, the same day new House lawmakers were sworn in and Acevedo’s first day as a non-House member, McClain divulged to Marquez the details of a “good conversation” he’d had with Acevedo that focused on a litany of “shortcomings” he saw in the ex-lawmaker and his sons.
McClain, who had direct access to Madigan as a top advisor and friend, had a bulleted list of complaints about the Acevedos:
“His two boys are nice but need a firm monitor. They are lazy.”
“He is no longer a Member so he has to eat a little humble pie.”
“He has to show up at the meetings on time. Himself. Not his boys representing him. That should go on for the next year and then it can be revisited.”
“Watch the booze.”
McClain went on to identify six House members and four senators whom Acevedo could “lobby.”
In state lobbying disclosure records between 2017 and 2019, Eddie Acevedo never revealed he had a lobbying relationship with ComEd. Likewise, Apex never disclosed it had a lobbying gig with the utility company.
Apex’s undisclosed contract with ComEd was funneled through a series of other ComEd lobbyists, including Victor Reyes, Shaw Decremer and former state Rep. John Bradley, D-Marion, according to company emails turned over to the House last fall and a source with firsthand knowledge of the arrangement.
Asked about its past relationship with Acevedo, ComEd on Wednesday avoided directly responding to questions about why it chose to hire the former lawmaker. A spokesman also did not comment on this week’s round of federal indictments charging the Acevedos.
“While it is not appropriate for us to comment on these charges, we previously have made clear that past conduct violated our policies and did not live up to our values, and we moved aggressively to implement comprehensive ethics and compliance reforms to ensure that nothing like it ever happens again,” company spokesman Paul Elsberg said in an email. “Among other requirements, these new compliance policies prohibit subcontracting of both third-party lobbyists and political consultants.”
Reached by WBEZ late Wednesday, Acevedo said he was unaware of the indictments against him and his sons and then abruptly hung up.
Messages left with Apex Strategy and Michael Acevedo were not returned Thursday.
The indictment against Edward Acevedo alleges two counts of tax evasion for failing to pay more than $35,000 in federal taxes owed on income he made from Apex during 2017 and 2018. The charging document alleges that he received cash payments from the company as part of an effort to conceal his true income.
The source familiar with the federal investigation said it was not clear if all of Acevedo’s allegedly unpaid taxes were generated off of income solely from ComEd, though a portion was.
The two counts of tax evasion each carry potential penalties of up to $100,000 in fines and five years imprisonment.
Acevedo also faces four counts of willfully avoiding filing tax returns, which each carry potential $25,000 fines and imprisonment of up to a year.
His sons each were charged with filing false tax returns.
Ties to Daley political machine
The Acevedo family is no stranger to negative publicity.
Acevedo, 57, was a Chicago cop when he joined the Illinois General Assembly in the mid-1990s. He grew to become a member of Madigan’s leadership team, as assistant majority leader in the Illinois House.
That made Acevedo the highest-ranking Latino in the House at the time. He also was co-chairman of the Hispanic caucus in Springfield.
That clout came in great part from his association with the Hispanic Democratic Organization, a patronage army created by allies of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley to try to harness the growing community’s votes. HDO aided Daley allies and targeted the mayor’s critics. Hundreds of the group’s campaign workers ended up with lucrative jobs in city government.
Acevedo staunchly defended HDO against its critics in an interview with the Chicago Tribune in 2005.
“HDO and any group that is for the Latino community is strong and growing stronger every day,” Acevedo said at the time. “There are Latinos who are envious of an organization that is pushing for Latino empowerment. Shame on them.”
But HDO soon came into the crosshairs of federal investigators who exposed widespread, clout hiring fraud in the Daley administration. Acevedo was not charged, but other HDO members were convicted. And a friend and former office worker for Acevedo figured prominently in the case against Daley’s Streets and Sanitation commissioner, Al Sanchez.
That former Acevedo aide and HDO campaign worker, Denise Alcantar, landed a job as a city truck driver despite lacking any experience. Alcantar testified in federal court during Sanchez’s trial about causing an accident that left another city worker with severe injuries.
Alex Acevedo first made headlines when he was only 20 years old and traveled to the annual retreat of Illinois Latino lawmakers in Florida in 2006. According to the Miami Beach police, Edward Acevedo and his brother, Manuel, quarreled with security guards at a nightclub when they would not let Alex Acevedo in, because he was not yet 21.
Manuel Acevedo was arrested and charged with assaulting an officer, but the case was later dropped after he agreed to issue an apology.
Nearly a decade later, when his father announced he was retiring from the House, Alex Acevedo ran to replace him. He got the support of some top aides to then-Mayor Rahm Emanuel and then-Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn but lost in the Democratic primary to progressive Theresa Mah.
Alex Acevedo’s defeat in that election inspired an expletive-filled rant from another brother, Eddie Acevedo, Jr.
Alex Acevedo lost again in a campaign in 2019 for 25th Ward alderman.
According to state records, Alex Acevedo is a licensed nurse.
Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover state politics. Dan Mihalopoulos is an investigative reporter on WBEZ’s Government & Politics Team.