Updated 6:05 p.m.
Federal investigators swarmed village halls in southwest suburban Lyons, McCook and Summit on Thursday in a series of law enforcement actions that followed an FBI raid on a state senator’s office earlier this week.
The focus of Thursday’s activity isn’t clear, but it sent shock waves through Illinois’ political establishment as it was still reeling from Tuesday’s raids on the offices of Democratic state Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Cicero.
An FBI spokesman confirmed agents paid visits to the three municipal buildings – all within Sandoval’s legislative district – but refused to characterize the purpose of the activity or say whether it even related to Sandoval, who is chairman of the state Senate Transportation Committee.
In a statement to WBEZ, a representative for the Internal Revenue Service declined to talk specifics about the raids, but said the “IRS Criminal Investigation [unit] was out on search warrants today in some villages near Chicago.”
A criminal defense lawyer representing Sandoval said the FBI’s activities in the three suburbs Thursday did “not directly” pertain to his client and called the law-enforcement action an “excessive use of federal money.”
He did not elaborate on any possible direct or indirect connections to Sandoval.
“You’d probably have to ask those folks,” attorney Craig Tobin said, referring to the FBI. “The issue is whatever I would know, I can’t disclose to you.”
Pressed on whether he believed Sandoval might be charged criminally, Tobin said, “I don’t have any expectation of anything at this point in time.”
“Those types of decisions are above my pay grade, and I believe they’re made on Dearborn Street,” he said, referring to the address of the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Chicago.
Nobody has been charged with wrongdoing.
Democrat Jeff Tobolski serves as mayor of McCook. He’s also a member of the Cook County Board of Commissioners.
Tobolski was not present at Thursday’s Cook County Board meeting, though he still bought lunch for his colleagues. The meeting also featured a birthday cake for Tobolski, decorated with colorful frosting balloons.
Despite Tobolski's absence, the cake got eaten.
McCook’s village attorney said he did not know exactly what federal agents were after during their two-hour visit to the suburb’s village hall early Thursday.“I honestly can’t give you any more information other than the fact they came, they executive a search warrant and removed documents, and that’s about it,” lawyer Gary Perlman told WBEZ.
Earlier this week, federal investigators made a public display in raiding the home of Sandoval, in addition to his Springfield and Cicero offices.
It’s also unclear whether this week’s raids are related to an ongoing probe that has looked at Illinois House Speaker and state Democratic Party boss Michael Madigan, utility giant ComEd and others with ties to Madigan.
Tobolski has represented the southwest suburbs on the Cook County Board since 2010.
Democratic Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle told reporters Thursday she hadn’t talked to Tobolski.
“It’s painful to hear this,” Preckwinkle said of the raid.
Last month, Sandoval issued a public apology after a supporter staged a mock assassination of President Donald Trump at a fundraiser for Sandoval, which sparked national bipartisan criticism.
Sandoval, 55, came to power with the help of the now-defunct Hispanic Democratic Organization, a patronage army that was created by supporters of then-Mayor Richard M. Daley.
When HDO collapsed in the wake of a hiring fraud scandal at Chicago’s City Hall, Sandoval was not charged with any wrongdoing. But he was among HDO's most vocal defenders, saying authorities who targeted the group acted out of racism against Latinos.
In addition to his work in Springfield, Sandoval owns a company called Puentes Inc., which has done public-relations work for the town of Cicero and other municipal clients, according to state records.
Sandoval's attempt to expand his family's power failed last year when his daughter lost in a bid for a Cook County Board seat previously occupied by Congressman Jesus "Chuy" Garcia.
Tony Arnold and Dave McKinney cover Illinois state politics for WBEZ. Investigative Reporter Dan Mihalopoulos and Cook County Reporter Kristen Schorsch contributed.