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Longtime political operative for Ald. Edward Burke, former state Sen. Martin Sandoval charged with deceiving FBI

Chicago Tribune logo Chicago Tribune 3/29/2021 Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune

A longtime precinct captain for indicted Chicago Ald. Edward Burke and aide to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval was charged Monday with misleading the FBI in its sprawling federal political corruption investigation.

Rudy Acosta Jr., 70, was charged in a criminal information with one count of willfully deceiving the FBI about the criminal activity of others when he was interviewed in 2017 and 2018. The charge carries up to five years in prison if convicted.

Defendants charged in an information, as opposed to a grand jury indictment, typically intend to plead guilty. An arraignment date for Acosta had not been set as of Monday afternoon, and a defense attorney for him was not listed in the court docket.

According to the charge, Acosta failed to disclose in interviews with agents benefits both he and Sandoval received from another person — identified only as Individual A — including “free services, meals and travel.”

The two-page information also stated that when Acosta was questioned by the FBI on six separate occasions from January 2017 to December 2018, he hid the fact that he’d made “periodic cash payments” to Sandoval.

An old-school remnant of Chicago Democratic machine politics, Acosta came up under former 1st Ward Ald. Fred Roti, who was indicted in 1990 on corruption charges and later went to federal prison.

Acosta served for decades as a 14th Ward precinct captain under Burke, who was charged in a sweeping racketeering indictment in 2019 with using his powerful position as chairman of City Council Finance Committee to strong-arm businessmen to hire his private law firm to appeal their property taxes.

Acosta was also a key campaign aide for Sandoval, a Southwest Side legislator who was head of the Illinois Senate Transportation Committee. Sandoval resigned after his Springfield offices were raided in 2019, and last year he pleaded guilty to bribery charges alleging he agreed to act as a “protector” for a red-light camera company in Springfield in exchange for cash payments.

Sandoval, who was cooperating in the ongoing probe, died last December of COVID-19-related causes.

After Sandoval was charged, rumors of Acosta’s cooperation began circulating in legal circles. He denied being an informant when approached by a Tribune reporter in October 2019.

Acosta’s son, Rudy Acosta III, is currently facing federal drug conspiracy charges alleging he distributed large amounts of narcotics in the Chicago area for Mexican cartel members.

Meanwhile, the elder Acosta’s name surfaced in 2019 in a separate federal case alleging the operator of a clout-heavy Summit tavern paid $6,500 in bribes to two undisclosed officials in the southwest suburb in exchange for official acts benefiting one of his businesses.

The operator, Mariano Martinez, who worked on political campaigns with Acosta Sr., is cooperating with authorities in hopes for leniency at sentencing.

Acosta has been at the center of a number of political scandals through the years. In 2011, his home was found to have served as the home address for four students who were given legislative scholarships by Sandoval.

At the time, Sandoval claimed to barely know Acosta. But four years earlier, he’d brought his friend to Springfield and risen on the Senate floor to formally introduce him, records show.

“I have with me today, who accompanied me on my journey here to Springfield, to the State Capitol, my good friend, Rudy Acosta,” Sandoval said then, according to a transcript.. “He is a — the Hispanic liaison to the 14th Ward Alderman, the City of Chicago. And he also is the precinct captain to the Alderman of the 14th Ward, my Alderman, Ed Burke. I’d like to give a warm welcome to my guy, Rudy Acosta.”

jmeisner@chicagotribune.com

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