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Sen. Thomas Cullerton quits, to plead guilty to embezzlement

February 23, 2022 GMT

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — An Illinois state senator resigned Wednesday just before indicating his intention to plead guilty in a federal embezzlement case.

Democrat Thomas E. Cullerton of Villa Park gave up his seat of nearly 10 years and his lawyer told U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman that a trial would not be necessary over a charge Cullerton accepted $275,000 in salary and benefits from the Teamsters union for a no-show job.

Gettleman set a change of plea hearing of March 8 for the 52-year-old Cullerton, part of a Chicago political family that dates to the Great Fire of 1871. He is also a distant cousin of former Senate President John Cullerton, a Chicago Democrat.

Cullerton, whose case was delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic, was indicted by a federal grand jury in August 2019 on 39 counts of embezzlement from a labor union, one count of conspiracy to embezzle from a labor union and employee benefit plans and one count of making false statements in a health care matter.

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Cullerton declined comment through a spokeswoman until all legal proceedings are finalized.

Elected to the state senate in 2012, Cullerton was a truck driver and Teamsters member who got a job as an organizer for Teamsters Joint Council 25 that same year after a former employer shut down.

His indictment came just days after former Teamsters boss John T. Coli pleaded guilty in an extortion case. Coli acknowledged arranging the job for Cullerton despite doubts that “the employment was legitimate.”

Prosecutors allege that from 2013 to 2016, Cullerton collected $188,320 in salary, bonuses and allowances from the Teamsters, $64,068 in health and pension contribution and $21,678 in reimbursed medical bills while doing little or no work for the labor union.

Democratic leaders in Cullerton’s DuPage County senate district will choose a replacement to complete Culllerton’s term which expires in January 2023.