Federal Prosecutors Charge Illinois State Sen. Terry Link With Tax Fraud

Illinois Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan
Federal prosecutors say Illinois Sen. Terry Link earned much more than the $264,450 he reported on his 2016 tax returns. Seth Perlman / Associated Press
Illinois Sen. Terry Link, D-Waukegan
Federal prosecutors say Illinois Sen. Terry Link earned much more than the $264,450 he reported on his 2016 tax returns. Seth Perlman / Associated Press

Federal Prosecutors Charge Illinois State Sen. Terry Link With Tax Fraud

A long-serving Illinois state senator from the northern suburbs who sits on a state legislative ethics panel and was a poker-playing buddy of former President Barack Obama was charged by federal authorities Thursday with felony tax evasion.

The charge against state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, was spelled out in a federal document filed Thursday that offered little detail about the nature of the accusation against him.

Link’s name surfaced in the federal bribery case against former state Rep. Luis Arroyo, D-Chicago, who was accused last fall of offering to bribe an unidentified state senator $2,500 to help advance legislation legalizing sweepstakes gambling in Illinois. Arroyo pleaded not guilty.

WBEZ has confirmed that senator was Link, though the senator adamantly denied in an interview with WBEZ that he was a government mole.

It’s not clear whether that alleged bribery scheme has any relationship to the tax charge filed against Link on Thursday.

Earlier this year, Link amended his state financial disclosure statement for the 2016 calendar year by disclosing he had made at least $5,000 from the sale of a home in Fort Myers, FL. Federal tax rules dictate that federal taxes are due on any gains realized from the sale of a second home.

In their filing Thursday, federal authorities said that Link reported $264,450 on his 2016 federal tax returns, but his true earnings “substantially exceeded that amount.”

Link was first elected to the state Senate in 1996 and had served in former Senate President John Cullerton’s leadership team.

On Thursday evening, Link resigned from the Legislative Ethics Commission, according to a statement from Senate President Don Harmon’s spokesman.

Link’s political arrival in Springfield 23 years ago marked one of the first and most significant Democratic inroads into what had been safely-reliable, Republican-held political turf in Chicago’s suburbs.

At least initially, his political ascension ran parallel with Obama’s. When Obama returned to Springfield in 2009, he made special mention of his friendship to Link during their legislative time together. Obama, an avid poker player, often played the card game with Link and others at Link’s Springfield residence when both served in the Legislature together.

On Thursday, Republicans quickly seized on Link’s legal troubles.

“Another member of the IL Democrat Crime Ring bites the dust,” the state Republican Party posted on its Twitter account. “In unsurprising news, Sen. Link is a member of the ‘Ethics Commission.’ Go figure.”

Link did not immediately respond to a voicemail left on his cell phone. His attorney did not immediately respond to WBEZ request for comment.

Link represents the fourth Democratic state lawmaker to face federal charges from U.S. Attorney John Lausch since 2019. State Sen. Tom Cullerton, D-Villa Park, who faces federal embezzlement charges, and Arroyo have cases pending against them, while former state Sen. Martin Sandoval pleaded guilty to bribery and tax evasion.

Dave McKinney and Tony Arnold cover Illinois state politics and government for WBEZ. Follow them on Twitter @davemckinney and @tonyjarnold.