CHICAGO - The chief of staff of a Chicago alderman is being accused of accepting a bribe in an FBI sting operation initiated in 2012, the Chicago division announced Friday.
Curtis V. Thompson, chief of staff for Chicago's 21st Ward Alderman Howard Brookins, has been charged with accepting a $7,500 bribe in return for assistance in obtaining the alderman’s letter of support for a license to sell alcohol in the alderman’s ward. Thompson allegedly accepted the cash bribe from an individual who claimed he wanted to open a convenience store but who, in reality, was a cooperating witness (CW1) working with the FBI in an undercover corruption probe that began in September 2012.
The complaint describes a series of phone conversations and face-to-face meetings between CW1 and various unidentified individuals as CW1 sought help in obtaining a liquor license. Those conversations and meetings resulted in an introduction between CW1 and Thompson on October 9, 2013, a meeting that was audio and video recorded. According to the complaint, CW1 and Thompson met to discuss a purported convenience store that would sell alcohol, and during the meeting, Thompson told CW1 of the alderman’s preference for a restaurant, as the ward was “heavily laden with liquor.” The complaint alleges that CW1 passed a note to Thompson that read, “$7,500 to the Ald. for L.O. S. [letter of support]” and that Thompson appeared to read the note and respond, “Okay. I understand. I understand.” Thompson then allegedly stated that he would bring it up with the alderman.
The complaint also describes two subsequent meetings, on October 29 and November 19, 2013, at which CW1, Thompson, the alderman and others were present, to discuss the proposed convenience store. During the October 29 meeting, CW1 allegedly passed a note to the alderman that said, “12K to you for letter of support” and the note was passed from the alderman to another unidentified man at the meeting and then to Thompson. During the November 19 meeting, the alderman allegedly agreed to send as many letters of support as CW1 needed. According to the complaint, CW1 picked up a letter of support addressed to 7-Eleven Inc. from the alderman’s office, but the letter did not address the sale of alcohol.
The complaint alleges that CW1 was subsequently solicited to donate to the alderman’s holiday toy drive and to co-sponsor the alderman’s Christmas party, both of which he agreed to do. The complaint further alleges that on December 10, CW1 traveled to the alderman’s office and received a letter of support on the alderman’s letterhead, addressed to 7-Eleven Inc., and signed in the name of the alderman, which read, in part, “Please allow this letter to serve as my full support for a 7-Eleven convenience store....This store will be a welcomed addition to [Alderman A’s ward] community and those that patronize the area for shopping and convenience needs. As well as wine and spirits (alcohol).”
CW1 attended the alderman’s Christmas party on December 19 and, while walking out of the party with Thompson, allegedly gave Thompson a red envelope containing a Christmas card and 75 $100 bills. Thompson took the envelope from CW1, felt it deliberately, looked at it, and then placed it in a jacket pocket, saying, “Thanks,” according to the complaint.
If convicted, bribery carries a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.