Ex-Illinois state senator gets prison in embezzlement case

CHICAGO (AP) — A former Illinois state senator was sentenced Tuesday to a year and a day in prison for taking hundreds of thousands of dollars from the Teamsters union for a no-show job.

Thomas Cullerton, a Democrat from the Chicago suburb of Villa Park, was sentenced on a federal embezzlement charge for fraudulently receiving salary and benefits from the union, according to the U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois.

Cullerton, 52, pleaded guilty in March, two weeks after he abruptly resigned from the Legislature. He admitted that he improperly took more than $240,000 from the Teamsters.

He agreed to pay $248,828 in restitution.

Prosecutors allege that from 2013 to 2016, he collected $169,488 in salary, bonuses and allowances from the Teamsters, $57,662 in health and pension contributions and $21,678 in reimbursed medical bills while doing little or no work for the labor union.

Cullerton admitted that he used the embezzled money to pay personal expenses, such as his mortgage, utilities and groceries, prosecutors said Tuesday in a news release.

He resigned on Feb. 23, hours before his attorney notified a judge that they had reached a plea deal with prosecutors.

Cullerton was indicted in 2019 just days after former Teamsters boss John T. Coli pleaded guilty in an extortion case. Coli, who has not been sentenced, acknowledged arranging the job for Cullerton despite doubts that “the employment was legitimate.”

Cullerton is part of a Chicago political family that dates to the Great Fire of 1871. He is also a distant cousin of former Illinois Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat.

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