Ex-Illinois state senator pleads guilty in embezzlement case

March 8, 2022 GMT

CHICAGO (AP) — A former Illinois state senator pleaded guilty Tuesday in a federal embezzlement case, two weeks after he abruptly resigned from the state Legislature.

Former state Sen. Thomas Cullerton, a Democrat from Villa Park, pleaded guilty to one count of embezzlement, admitting that he improperly took more than $240,000 from the Teamsters labor union.

Cullerton, 52, has agreed to pay $248,828 in restitution. He could face a prison sentence of more than a year, a prosecutor told U.S. District Judge Robert Gettleman during Tuesday’s hearing. His sentencing has been set for June 21.

Cullerton was charged in 2019 in an indictment. Prosecutors allege that from 2013 to 2016, he 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.


His trial had been scheduled for April, but Cullerton instead resigned from office on Feb. 23, hours before his attorney notified Gettleman that they had reached a plea deal with prosecutors.

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

Cullerton is 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.