Ex-alderman Ed Burke, developer Charles Cui found guilty in Chicago corruption trial

Former finance committee chairman was accused of misusing power to steer business toward his property tax law firm

Ed Burke, Developer Cui Found Guilty In Corruption Trial
Charles Cui and Edward Burke (Getty, Immigration Lawyers PC)

Jurors convicted former Chicago alderman Edward Burke as well as his co-defendant, real estate developer Charles Cui, in a historic corruption trial Thursday. The case centered on Burke’s alleged misuse of political power to steer business toward his property-tax law firm, Klafter & Burke. 

Burke, 79, who served as alderman from 1969 to 2023, was found guilty of racketeering, bribery and attempted extortion, the Chicago Sun-Times reported

A federal jury delivered its judgment after about 23 hours of deliberation, charging Burke on 13 of the 14 corruption charges tied to multiple real estate-related schemes. The main episodes at the forefront of the trial included Burke’s attempt to extort the owners of a Burger King in his ward who also owned thousands of other fast food restaurants throughout the country, and the $600 million renovation of the Old Post Office building, which involved New York-based developer 601W Cos.

Lake Forest-based developer and fellow defendant Cui was also found guilty. Cui was accused of bribing Burke in exchange for help with a sign permit and financing deal for a project on Chicago’s Northwest Side. The stakes were high, with a potential loss of $750,000 through a lease amendment with Binny’s Beverage Depot hinging on the permit.

Cui, 52, of Lake Forest, was convicted of one count of federal program bribery, three counts of using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity and one count of making a false statement to the FBI. He faces a maximum sentence of 30 years in prison.

Emails revealed Cui’s acknowledgment of Burke’s clout. Thus, Cui shifted some of his business to Burke’s firm with the primary goal of leveraging his influence.

Furthermore, the prosecution delineated a pattern in which Burke allegedly exerted pressure on various businesses, using his position to expedite or stall property-related matters based on personal affiliations and benefits.

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The trial, spanning 16 days of testimony with 38 witnesses, painted Burke as a “bribe taker” and “extortionist.” Notably, the case spotlighted FBI mole Danny Solis, another former Chicago alderman who wore a wire to record numerous incriminating conversations with Burke.

Throughout his storied career, Burke wielded immense power, especially through his chairmanship of the Finance Committee, which managed a substantial budget and shaped the city’s financial decisions. His influence extended beyond city operations; Burke’s connections delved into judicial matters, bolstered by his marriage to former Illinois Supreme Court Chief Justice Anne Burke.

Together, all 13 charges Burke was convicted of could carry sentences that accumulate to a possible 120 years, but federal sentencing guidelines mean he will not face the the maximum. However, he is likely to face a significant sentence. Cui will be sentenced June 17 and Burke will be sentenced two days later.

Mayor Brandon Johnson applauded the jury’s verdict.

“Elected officials are responsible for serving with honesty and integrity, with a moral responsibility to their constituents to uphold and abide by the law. In the case that they fail to do so, it is imperative that they are held accountable. That is what the jury decided today,” Johnson said in a statement.

— Quinn Donoghue

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