Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo (D-Chicago) pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal wire fraud charge, acknowledging that he offered a member of the Illinois Senate monthly payments of $2,500 to support a bill supported by a sweepstakes firm that hired Arroyo as a lobbyist.
Arroyo pleaded guilty to one charge of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Steven C. Seeger. Arroyo is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 18.
Arroyo, 67, of Chicago, was first indicted on one charge of bribery in October 2019, and resigned from the Illinois House one month later.
At the time of his indictment, Arroyo was registered as a Chicago lobbyist focused on sweepstakes legislation, according to records filed with the Chicago Board of Ethics. In December 2019, the Chicago City Council voted 48-0 to ban elected officials from other jurisdictions to lobby Chicago officials.
In October 2020, federal prosecutors indicted Arroyo on eight charges as part of an indictment that also named James Weiss, the owner of sweepstakes firm Collage LLC. Weiss wanted state lawmakers to legalize sweepstakes machines, which are similar to video poker machines.
In Chicago, where video poker machines are banned by city law, unregulated and untaxed sweepstakes machines operate out of bars, laundromats and gas stations.
Weiss is married to former state Rep. Maria “Toni” Berrios, who served in the Illinois House from 2003-15, and is the son-in-law of former Cook County Democratic Party chair Joseph Berrios. Weiss has pleaded not guilty. Weiss’ attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, did not immediately respond to a request for comment from WTTW News.
Arroyo, who pleaded guilty without an agreement in place with federal prosecutors, faces a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, a fine of $250,000 and three years of supervised release. Prosecutors told Seeger they intend to ask Arroyo to forfeit $32,500 he earned as part of the scheme.
However, Lisa Noller, Arroyo’s attorney, told Seeger they believe the former Chicago politician should forfeit just $7,500.
Assistant U.S. Attorney James Durkin said that Arroyo accepted $7,500 in bribes from Weiss’ firm between August and October 2019 with the understanding that he would vote for the legislation supported by Weiss and lobby members of the executive branch of the Illinois government and the Illinois Senate.
Arroyo and Weiss conspired to bribe a member of the Illinois Senate identified as “State Senator A,” Durkin said. That senator has been identified as former state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills. Link resigned from the Illinois Senate in September 2020. Link pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return and agreed to cooperate with prosecutors.
“This is the jackpot,” Arroyo told the senator as they formalized the agreement in August 2019 outside a Skokie restaurant that was recorded by the senator who was cooperating with the FBI. The senator was to be paid $2,500 per month for a year, Durkin told the judge.
Those payments were to be concealed by sending a check from Collage to a person chosen by the senator, Durkin said.