Former Illinois senator sentenced to prison for embezzlement

A former Illinois state senator was sentenced to a year and a day in prison on Tuesday 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 convicted of embezzlement of federal funds for fraudulently receiving union pay and benefits, 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 Legislative Assembly. He admitted to wrongfully taking 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 Teamsters salary, bonuses and allowances, $57,662 in health and pension contributions and $21,678 in reimbursed medical expenses while doing little or no work for the union.

Cullerton admitted to using the embezzled money to pay for personal expenses, such as his mortgage, utilities and groceries, prosecutors said in a press release Tuesday.

He resigned on February 23, hours before his attorney told a judge they had reached a plea deal with prosecutors.

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

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

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