Former IL Sen. Martin Sandoval pleads guilty to bribery, will assist corruption probe

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CHICAGO — Former Illinois Senator Martin Sandoval pled guilty Tuesday to accepting $250,000 in bribes to block red light camera legislation, and filing a false tax return.

Sandoval is the first politician to go down in a sweeping federal corruption probe, and faces between 10 and 13 years in prison after pleading guilty to the two felony charges. He could serve less time by cooperating with investigators.

Shedding tears while his lawyer tried to comfort him during the hearing Tuesday, Sandoval said he's, “deeply ashamed of my actions."

As part of his plea agreement, Sandoval admits to using his position of power in the state senate to enrich himself, taking at least $250,000 in bribes since 2016.

What might end up being the most interesting part of all is that he's cooperating with federal investigators, although U.S. Attorney John Lausch wouldn't provide details on what information the former senator has agreed to share.

"He's agreed to testify on any matter we ask him to testify about," Lausch said.

During the hearing Tuesday, prosecutors shared transcripts of conversations he had at a restaurant in Burr Ridge with a representative from a red light camera company, asking for even more money if he was going to protect their interests.

“It’s hard for me to swallow how [people] make so much off of you. Right? And I gotta do the work,” he said.

During the conversation, Sandoval offered up the figure of $5,000 a month to protect the company against red light camera legislation that could cost them business.

Sandoval is the fourth Illinois politician to face corruption charges since last January. Last fall, federal agents raided Sandoval’s home and offices. He resigned from the senate after.

“It is a very stubborn problem we seem to have here in Illinois," Lausch said.

The corruption investigation is apparently focused in part on SafeSpeed LLC, one of the largest red-light camera operators in the state. Though they are not named in court documents, Sandoval said their name in court Tuesday.

Additional investigations are ongoing, according to the U.S. Attorney. Sandoval is out of court on an unsecured $10,000 bond, and his case will be back in court in July, although it could be a long time before he’s actually sentenced.

“Every person who was mentioned in the search warrant... should be nervous," House Republican leader Jim Durkin said.

Investigators want to make sure they have a long time with him Sandoval see what he knows, as their investigations are ongoing.  When asked if Speaker Mike Madigan might be caught up in the corruption as well, the U.S. Attorney would not offer a comment.

Agents raided Sandoval's office in Springfield, his office in Chicago and his home on Sept. 24 amid still-active federal investigations of public corruption that have ensnared multiple Democrats.

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