Trial date set for state senator charged with embezzlement
Sen. Tom Cullerton is pictured at the Illinois State Capitol in March 2020. (File photo by Lee Milner, Illinois Times)
Sen. Tom Cullerton accused of doing little to no work in union job
By SARAH MANSUR
Capitol News Illinois
SPRINGFIELD — State Sen. Tom Cullerton, who was indicted in 2019 on charges of embezzlement, is set to go to trial in February next year, a federal judge said on Tuesday.
Cullerton, a Democrat from Villa Park, is scheduled to be tried in the U.S. District Court in Chicago, starting on Feb. 23, 2022.
The latest development in Cullerton’s criminal case came during a court hearing Tuesday morning before Judge Robert Gettleman. Cullerton’s federal trial was previously set for July 2020 but that date was scrapped when the pandemic halted jury trials.
The indictment, issued in August 2019, charges Cullerton with one count of conspiracy to embezzle from a labor union and employee benefit plans, 39 counts of embezzlement from a labor union, and one count of making false statements in a health care matter. He pleaded not guilty to all of the charges.
Cullerton is accused of performing little or no work in his role as a union organizer for Teamsters Local Union 734, where he was a member before being elected to the General Assembly in 2012.
During his first term in office, in March 2013, Cullerton was hired as a union organizer, a full-time position that came with health and pension benefits.
He was hired to the union position by John Coli, the former union leader who agreed to work with federal prosecutors as part of a plea deal. Coli pleaded guilty in federal court to extorting a film studio in Chicago.
Cullerton’s indictment alleges the senator embezzled $274,066 from the union between January 2013 and February 2016 — $188,320 in salary and allowances; $64,068 in medical and pension plan contributions; and $21,678 in “reimbursed medical claims.”
According to the indictment, Cullerton also received holiday bonuses for three years and collected about $60,000 from Jan. 15, 2015, through the end of January 2016.
Cullerton reported the additional income in a statement of economic interests form with the secretary of state’s office, as required by Illinois law, in 2013 and 2014 but not in 2015 or 2016, according to the indictment.
Through his attorneys, Cullerton has denied wrongdoing.
Cullerton was reelected to his third state Senate term in 2018. His term ends in 2023.
The retired U.S. Army infantryman currently serves as chair of the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. He is also a member of the Energy and Public Utilities, Insurance, Labor, State Government and Transportation committees.
Daniel Collins, one of Cullerton’s attorneys and a lawyer with Faegre Drinker Biddle & Reath LLP, declined to comment on Tuesday’s development.
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