Cicero hired crooked ex-Chicago alderman to run festivals
BY BECKY SCHLIKERMAN AND JON SEIDEL Staff Reporters September 14, 2013 12:54AM
FILE - In this Jan. 23, 2003 file photo, former Chicago alderman Ambrosio Medrano is seen in Chicago. On Thursday, June 28, 2012, federal authorities announced corruption charges against Medrano and former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Moreno. The charges were unsealed Thursday afternoon in Chicago federal court. Medrano and Moreno were among seven defendants charged in the case. (AP Photo/M. Spencer Green, File)
Updated: October 16, 2013 6:15AM
By at least one measure, he’s the most corrupt former Chicago alderman of all time.
But when the Town of Cicero wanted to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on summer festivals, it entrusted that money to none other than Ambrosio Medrano — in between felony convictions in federal court.
Medrano had already done a stretch in federal prison starting in 1996 for taking bribes while a Chicago alderman.
The town hired him in 2009 to run 13 street festivals and would drop him only after he was arrested in yet another scam.
Medrano was convicted at trial earlier this year for conspiring to dish out bribes and is expected to plead guilty in yet another corruption case.
For the Cicero job, Medrano didn’t have to bid against the competition.
Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, who was given carte blanche by the town board to hire someone for the festival work, gave him the job.
And Dominick appears to have taken the felon at his word when it came to sharing money from liquor sales from the festivals.
The town was supposed to get 25 percent of the revenue of the sales; Medrano’s company, Del Sol Entertainment Group, the rest.
But the town could not produce a single document showing Cicero ever got a penny from Del Sol for liquor sales.
When asked how much money the town received from Del Sol, town spokesman Ray Hanania declined to provide any answers to that question, along with several others he asked to have submitted in writing.
What’s more, the contract between Del Sol and the town contained an unusual item, legal experts say. If Del Sol received any subpoenas it had to notify the Town of Cicero first and not turn over any information before allowing the town to decide whether to fight the subpoena in court.
Those are among the findings of a Chicago Sun-Times investigation of the agreement between the town and Medrano’s Del Sol.
Federal agents began probing Medrano’s business dealings with Cicero last summer, at least a week before the disgraced former alderman was arrested on health-care fraud charges in two unrelated cases, records obtained by the Sun-Times show.
Medrano has since been convicted in one of those unrelated cases, earning him the dubious distinction of being the only former member of Chicago’s City Council to be convicted of corruption on two separate occasions. Court records indicate that he plans to plead guilty in a third public-corruption case.
Nobody has been accused of any wrongdoing in the Cicero deal. The town canceled the contract the day Medrano, 59, was arrested in the health-care scams.
Yet, plenty of unanswered questions remain.
Medrano declined to comment about his work in Cicero, telling a reporter “there’s nothing to talk about.”
Cicero and Medrano’s partnership apparently began in 2009 when Dominick signed a contract with Medrano’s company.
Medrano’s firm said it would spend no more than $350,000 on the 13 festivals. For “operational costs,” Del Sol would bill the town 15 percent “over cost” and it would provide invoices to the town, according to the contract. Del Sol would also get $75,000 for its services.
And it would receive 75 percent of the profits from liquor sales.
Cicero was supposed to get the remaining 25 percent of all liquor revenue from those events, but the town could provide no record of any payments.
The contract does not require Del Sol to document how much alcohol was sold nor how the town’s cut would be calculated, records show.
Del Sol was apparently kept on to work on several other Cicero events until 2012, hiring mariachis, clowns and a Michael Jackson impersonator, among other acts. Del Sol also was in charge of marketing for the events.
Records show Cicero paid Del Sol at least $162,000 in 2009 and 2010. The only check Cicero produced from Del Sol to the town was a 2011 $900 cashier’s check for “Cinco De Mayo reimbursement.”
The Chicago Sun-Times asked the town for any proof of a bidding process in its record request, but the town produced no records of that either.
Meanwhile, evidence at a trial earlier this year has already shown Medrano kept on committing felonies even after Cicero hired him.
A federal jury found him guilty of conspiring to dish out bribes to snare a lucrative Los Angeles County medical contract in a year-long scheme starting in 2011.
A year earlier, Medrano and others allegedly took bribes and kickbacks to sell bandages to public hospitals including Stroger Hospital, federal prosecutors said. Court records indicate that he plans to plead guilty in that case.
The town only severed its relationship with Del Sol and Medrano on June 28, 2012 — one week after it received a subpoena seeking records on the company.
It was also the day Medrano was arrested.
The federal grand jury subpoena received by the town also sought, among other things, records regarding one of Medrano’s co-defendants, former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Mario Moreno.