Updated: 1:31 p.m.
Illinois State Rep. Luis Arroyo, a high-ranking Democratic lawmaker from Chicago, was charged in a bribery scheme Monday in federal court.
Arroyo, the 65-year-old former assistant majority leader in the state House, appeared before Magistrate Judge Maria Valdez and was charged with “theft or bribery concerning programs receiving federal funds.”
Arroyo allegedly attempted to bribe an unidentified state senator on behalf of a lobbying client who had an interest in legislation regarding so-called “sweepstakes” gaming machines, said the spokesman for U.S. Atty. John Lausch.
An aide at Arroyo’s office in Chicago said he “entered a plea of not guilty and believes he will be eventually completely vindicated of the charges against him.”
Arroyo’s arrest follows a series of federal raids in the Chicago area in recent months, and even one at the state Capitol in Springfield.
But nobody had been charged yet in the wide-ranging probe – until Arroyo, who posted $10,000 bond, surrendered his passport and was ordered not to have contact with an unnamed “Individual A.”
During last month’s FBI raid at the Springfield office of state Sen. Martin Sandoval, a Southwest Side Democrat, the feds were seeking documents regarding sweepstakes games.
The devices, which operate much like video-gambling machines, have spread rapidly across Chicago and other parts of the state.
Unlike the video poker machines that the state has regulated and taxed since 2012, the other machines don’t pay state or local government. And the state does not conduct background checks of sweepstakes machine operators or the businesses that install them, as is required for video poker licenses.
A WBEZ investigation last year found some bars that were deemed unfit for video gambling have simply installed sweepstakes machines instead.
Even as he’s worked in Springfield, Arroyo has also been a lobbyist at Chicago City Hall, city records show. According to disclosures he filed with the city ethics board, Arroyo has lobbied members of the Chicago City Council for “sweepstakes machines legislation” on behalf of a client called VSS, Inc.
Arroyo is a top member in the House Democratic caucus of longtime, powerful Speaker Michael Madigan, who also is the head of the Democratic Party of Illinois. WBEZ first reported a week ago that Madigan was named in a federal subpoena served earlier this year at the offices of the City Club of Chicago, a nonprofit public-affairs forum.
Arroyo was born in Puerto Rico and represents a heavily Latino House district on the Northwest Side of Chicago. His son is Cook County Commissioner Luis Arroyo, Jr., a key ally in the county board for Democratic President Toni Preckwinkle.
The charges came on the first day of the Illinois General Assembly’s fall veto session.