Chicago Alderman Edward Burke has been charged with attempted extortion for allegedly using his position of power to unlawfully solicit business for his private law firm, according to a criminal complaint filed in U.S. District Court.
According to the complaint, which was filed under seal Wednesday and made public Thursday, Burke attempted to extort an area restaurant company that needed city permits for building renovations.
In June 2017, the complaint alleges, Burke met two executives from the unnamed restaurant company and “used his position as an alderman – including his apparent ability to withhold his official support for the building permit and a related driveway permit – in order to corruptly solicit unlawful personal financial advantage in the form of fees arising from the retention of Burke’s law firm, Klafter & Burke.”
When the restaurant company did not retain Burke’s law firm for tax work, Burke conspired with a city employee to halt the renovation project, according to the complaint. Burke met again with the company executives, who assured him they would retain the alderman’s law firm, according to the complaint, and Burke withdrew his opposition to granting the necessary permits.
The Chicago Tribune reported late Thursday afternoon that the restaurant seeking renovation permits was a Burger King in Burke’s ward.
The charges against Burke come a little more than a month after FBI agents raided Burke’s City Hall and legal offices.
As part of their investigation, federal agents obtained a warrant to wiretap Burke’s cellphone, according to the criminal complaint.
Burke, 75, was first elected to the Chicago City Council in 1969. He appeared in court Thursday afternoon for an initial appearance on the charges.