Feds Charge Ex-State Sen. Sandoval In Red Light Camera Corruption Probe

Martin Sandoval
In this March 25, 2014 file photo, Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Cicero, speaks during a news conference at the Illinois state Capitol, in Springfield, Ill. Seth Perlman / Associated Press
Martin Sandoval
In this March 25, 2014 file photo, Illinois Sen. Martin Sandoval, D-Cicero, speaks during a news conference at the Illinois state Capitol, in Springfield, Ill. Seth Perlman / Associated Press

Feds Charge Ex-State Sen. Sandoval In Red Light Camera Corruption Probe

Updated: 2:31 p.m.

Federal prosecutors charged ex-Illinois state Sen. Martin Sandoval Monday with bribery and tax evasion in connection with his support of the red-light-camera industry, marking the first charges to arise from a series of high-profile federal raids.

The charges against Sandoval came in a court document that signifies the long-time state senator from Chicago’s Southwest Side, who resigned last November, may be cooperating with federal investigators.

Monday’s charges alleged that Sandoval, as chairman of the influential Senate Transportation Committee, accepted bribes of $5,000 or more for his “continued support for the operation of red-light cameras in the state of Illinois, including opposing legislation adverse to the interest of the red-light-camera industry.”

Federal prosecutors also alleged that Sandoval deliberately under-reported his income in 2017. He reported $125,905 in income when his true income “substantially exceeded that amount,” according to the charging document.

Sandoval’s attorney did not immediately respond to WBEZ’s request for comment. Sandoval is set to be arraigned in federal court Tuesday morning.

The Chicago Democrat had his office and home raided by federal agents in late September as part of a multi-pronged federal probe.

The raid sought records related to SafeSpeed, a Chicago-based red-light camera operator; lobbying activities by Commonwealth Edison and its parent, Exelon Corp.; video gambling mogul Rick Heidner; and road-paving magnate Michael Vondra, among others.

Monday’s charging document against Sandoval did not mention SafeSpeed by name. It also did not mention the utilities, Heidner or Vondra.

Newly-named Illinois Senate President Don Harmon, D-Oak Park, said in a statement that the charges illustrate why ethics reform is a priority in the upcoming legislative session.

“The searing image of federal agents toting boxes out of former Senator Sandoval’s Capitol office was an embarrassment to all of us who take public service seriously,” Harmon said.

Harmon’s predecessor, former Senate President John Cullerton, moved to block the release of a fully unredacted search warrant and documents that compiled what federal agents seized from Sandoval’s statehouse office in late September. Cullerton’s attempts at secrecy shielded from public light the identities of SafeSpeed, ComEd and Exelon, Heidner, Vondra and others, including Harmon’s former law firm, Burke, Burns & Pinelli.

But WBEZ sued the Senate president’s office in early October, alleging Cullerton’s redactions broke the state’s open records law. Within two weeks, Cullerton’s office relented and the documents were released, mostly clear of blacked-out sections.

Dave McKinney covers state government and politics for WBEZ. Follow him on Twitter @davemckinney.