CHICAGO – Former alderman Ricardo Munoz pleaded not guilty to federal charges that he used campaign donations as a personal slush fund to pay for tickets, tuition, jewelry and vacations.
The alderman was arraigned Wednesday afternoon on a 16-count indictment in federal court. Munoz is accused of using thousands of dollars in political donations for his personal expenses – and then lying about it.
The charges were announced last week in what seemed like an avalanche of corruption news out of City Hall – from details about Alderman Ed Burke’s wiretaps to the indictment of Alderman Patrick Daley Thompson on tax and banking charges.
The 56-year-old Northern Illinois University graduate served as alderman of the city’s 22nd Ward for more than a quarter-century, from 1993 to 2019. Wednesday was the first of what will be many days in court but the ex-alderman maintains his innocence.
A federal indictment charges Munoz, once the longest-tenured Latino member of Chicago’s City Council, with 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering.
He rose to be the chairman of the city council’s Progressive Reform Caucus and served as the group’s treasurer.
Federal investigators allege he used that position to form a Political Action Committee (PAC), raising money from donors. They say Munoz controlled the cash and made improper withdrawals using a debit card or simply transferring the money to his own campaign fund. From there, feds say the funds went to his personal bank account.
In a 29-page indictment, federal prosecutors allege that the Munoz spent the political donations on personal expenses – like college tuition for a relative, jewelry, clothing, cell phones, vacations, sports tickets and airline tickets.
In court today, Munoz waived the right to have the indictment read.
Munoz’s lawyer Richard Kling said in court Wednesday, “We would enter a plea of not guilty to all charges.”
The judge released Munoz on a “recognisance bond” meaning he doesn’t have to pay any bail money – he just has to promise to show up to the next court date – scheduled for June 4.