Former State Rep. Luis Arroyo Deserves More Than 4 Years in Prison for ‘Blatant Cash Grab,’ Feds Tell Judge

(WTTW News)(WTTW News)

Former state Rep. Luis Arroyo should spend more than four years in prison for bribing a state lawmaker to support a bill legalizing sweepstakes gambling machines, federal prosecutors urged a judge late Friday.

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Arroyo pleaded guilty to one charge of wire fraud before U.S. District Judge Steven C. Seeger in November, and is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 18. Arroyo has acknowledged 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’s conduct was a “blatant cash grab,” Assistant U.S. Attorney James Durkin told Seeger, asking that Arroyo spend between 46 to 57 months behind bars.

“He used the power and influence of his office to advance his own interests through bribery,” Durkin wrote. “His crime wasn’t a momentary lapse in judgement. It was a well-developed scheme that continued for nearly a full year. And worse, by the time he took part in this scheme, he was a longtime public official entering his seventh term as an Illinois State Representative. He knew better and he knew that his job was to pursue the interests of his constituents and the people of Illinois. Instead, he sacrificed those interests to pursue his own financial benefit.”

Arroyo’s attorneys asked Seeger to sentence the former elected official to probation, telling the judge sending Arroyo to jail would do no more to stop political corruption than attempting to drain “Lake Michigan with a spoon.”

Durkin urged the judge to reject that argument in total.

“That is a depressingly cynical perspective from a man who just a few years ago was a senior member of the Illinois House of Representatives,” Durkin wrote, also dismissing assertions from Arroyo’s attorneys that his conduct amounted to nothing more than a “brief dalliance with corruption.”

Arroyo, 67, of Chicago, was first indicted on one charge of bribery in October 2019, and resigned from the Illinois House one month later.

Arroyo was charged as part of an indictment that 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.

Prosecutors allege Arroyo was paid $32,500 by Weiss to push legislation that would have legalized gambling machines. Arroyo and Weiss were charged with conspiring to bribe a member of the Illinois Senate identified as “State Senator A.” 

Although that senator has long been identified as former state Sen. Terry Link, D-Vernon Hills, Arroyo’s plea for leniency is the first official document to identify Link as the senator who took the bribes. Link resigned from the Illinois Senate in September 2020. Link pleaded guilty to filing a false tax return.

“If defendant’s scheme had been successful, he would have changed Illinois law regarding the gaming industry, a heavily regulated industry, for his personal financial benefit and the benefit his co-defendant Weiss,” Durkin told the judge. “His is a serious crime that warrants a serious sentence.”

A significant prison sentence will have a deterrent effect on other politicians contemplating committing a corrupt act, Durkin wrote. Another set of federal prosecutors made the same argument in the case facing former Ald. Ricardo Muñoz (22nd Ward), who also asked a judge not to send him to prison.

“There is a strong need for a significant sentence that will assure the public that corruption from their elected officials is not tolerated and that will serve as a warning to other officials,” Durkin wrote.

Contact Heather Cherone: @HeatherCherone | (773) 569-1863 | [email protected]

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