CHICAGO — Federal agents were seeking materials related to ComEd and Exelon, Cook County Commissioner Jeff Tobolski, businessman Michael Vondra and red light camera company SafeSpeed, when they raided Sen. Martin Sandoval's Springfield office last month, according to an unredacted search warrant the Illinois Senate released Friday morning.
Sandoval, who has not been charged with any wrongdoing, resigned as chairman of the Senate Transportation committee on Friday.
The agents were looking for "items related to any official action taken in exchange for a benefit" and seized computers, cellphones, hard drives and a spreadsheet from Sandoval's campaign fund.
The subpoena also sought information related to Rick Heidner and Gold Rush Gaming. Heidner is a major video gambling operator who is seeking to build a southwest suburban horse track and casino. Heidner recently got state approval for harness racing dates in December 2020. The racino would be built on land near Interstate 80 and Harlem Avenue that used to be the Tinley Park Mental Health Center.
Gold Rush has video gambling machines at several locations in Lyons, McCook and Summit, according to the company's web site.
Since 2014, Heidner's Gold Rush has contributed $18,100 to Tobolski, who also is the McCook mayor; $11,500 to Sandoval; $8,550 to Lyons Mayor Chris Getty and his village party's campaign fund; and $1,500 to a campaign fund that lists as treasurer Summit Village President Sergio Rodriguez.
Agents were also seeking items related to Berwyn alderman and architect Cesar Santoy, and mentions of the firm where he is the principal, Arq Design Build, Inc. Gov. J.B. Pritzker appointed Santoy to the Illinois Toll Highway Authority Board of Directors earlier this year.
Santoy contacted the Pritzker's office Friday and resigned from the tollway board "out of his immense respect for the governor and the state and the board," said his attorney, Brendan Shiller. "He is confident that the legal concerns will clear up soon and hopeful that once that happens he will be reconsidered for the board."
Earlier, Shiller, said in a statement to the Tribune that he had "been informed that neither Cesar nor Studio Arq is a target" of the probe.
"The government wanted some records and they were provided," Shiller said.
At an unrelated press event held not long after the unredacted warrant was made public Pritzker had called for Santoy to step down from the tollway authority. The governor said he had just learned Santoy was named in warrant, "but the first thing I would say is that corruption and self dealing are unacceptable and will be rooted out, whether it's in my administration or in the legislature."
Asked why he elevated Santoy to his post, the governor said the tollway administrator's background raised no concerns at the time of his appointment.
"His vet at the time, and we do a very thorough vet, didn't show any flags -- and frankly, you know, he was qualified for the position. But it's clear now anyway that there is some cloud and investigation," said Pritzker, who noted that Santoy has not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Pritzker said the Illinois Department of Transportation had not been contacted or subpoenaed by federal authorities.
The search warrant shows the FBI was seeking evidence of violations of seven federal corruption statutes, including bribery, theft from a federally funded program and mail and wire fraud, according to the documents. The search warrant is part of a widespread corruption probe.
Unredacted FBI search warrant for state Sen. Martin Sandoval's Springfield office (PDF)
Unredacted FBI search warrant for state Sen. Martin Sandoval's Springfield office (Text)
The same day Sandoval's offices were raided, FBI agents visited the Bartlett headquarters of Bluff City Materials, one of several companies tied to businessman Michael Vondra. Vondra and his businesses have been major campaign contributors to Sandoval and other politicians, according to state campaign finance records.
Later that week, federal agents raided the village halls in west suburban McCook and Lyons.
Among the materials federal agents sought in Sandoval's office were items related to Vondra and about 20 of his businesses and associates, including John Harris, the former chief of staff to imprisoned ex-Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
Bluff City Materials is one of a web of businesses operated out of an industrial park in northwest suburban Bartlett owned by 2250-60 Southwind LLC. Secretary of state records say the limited liability corporation's managers include Vondra and Harris.
Over the years, Sandoval has introduced several pieces of legislation that would allow for more widespread use of recycled asphalt shingles in road paving projects. One of Vondra's businesses, Southwind RAS, specializes in making hot mix asphalt out of recycled shingles.
When he called for Sandoval to step down as Transportation Committee chairman last week, Gov. J.B. Pritzker noted that Sandoval had put forth a different infrastructure proposal from the $45 billion plan the governor ultimately signed into law. The plan included language on recycled asphalt shingles.
Sandoval's plan "was rejected, and amendments he put through were rejected," Pritzker said last week.
Southwind RAS is based in the same Bartlett industrial park, records show. Following an August fundraiser at Klein Creek Golf Club in Winfield, Sandoval's campaign sent an email to supporters asking for checks to be mailed to the same Bartlett address.
Vondra's Reliable Materials Lyons also owns a quarry adjacent to the village hall in west suburban Lyons. When the quarry is finished being filled with construction debris, it will become property of the village, which then plans to redevelop the land.
Vondra and his businesses have contributed to the campaigns of Sandoval, Tobolski and Lyons Village President Christopher Getty and his political party.
A number of the individuals and companies named in the search warrant had already come to light before the Senate released the unredacted document on Friday, including Commonwealth Edison and parent company Exelon.
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Exelon disclosed Wednesday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing that it received a federal subpoena last week demanding communications with Sandoval, tying the senator to the ongoing federal probe of ComEd and its lobbying activities in Springfield.
Sandoval's daughter Angie works as a senior account representative for ComEd.
Among the items seized was a flash drive with "Landek written on it," according to the warrant.
State Sen. Steve Landek, who also is mayor of Bridgeview, said in an interview Friday he shared a legislative assistant, Tammie Zumwalt, with Sandoval. The federal documents showed mail addressed to Zumwalt was taken along with other items.
Landek said the information on the flash drive likely was about office bills, rents, phones and potentially some information about legislation he has carried for the municipal league.
Landek said he has not been subpoenaed in his roles as mayor or senator, nor has the village of Bridgeview. He said he also has not been interviewed by authorities.
Federal agents also were looking for materials related to Puentes, a business owned by Sandoval that counts the town of Cicero among its clients, and Monarca, a company owned by Sandoval's wife, Marina, the warrant shows.
The feds also were looking for items related to an unnamed municipality, its president and attorney, the president's political party, and a fundraising committee connected to the attorney.
Sandoval's most recent economic interest disclosure lists two Illinois clients that paid Puentes more than $1,200 in 2018.
One of them is Cicero, which has paid Sandoval's Puentes $4,200 a month since August 2006 for "consulting services," originally tied to the town's new municipal complex, which was completed in 2008, according to documents obtained by the Tribune through an open-records request.
After the project was finished, the company signed a new deal to work with the town's Hispanic and community liaison and assisting with media relations and marketing to the Spanish-speaking community, including translating news releases.
In all, Cicero has paid Sandoval's company nearly $660,000 for the work since 2006, records show.
In response to a request for any documents or other work Puentes produced for Cicero, the town released summaries of work Sandoval's company did from 2011 through 2014, including participating in "daily/weekly/monthly" calls to discuss subjects such as "advertisement placed in Latino print media," "prioritization of events for photo shoots" and "reassessment of media distribution list." The town also released nearly 100 pages of Spanish-language news releases. The town withheld certain records "pertaining to attorney client communication."
David Ormsby, a spokesman for the law firm of Cicero town attorney Michael Del Galdo, said Friday afternoon that Del Galdo has had no contact with federal authorities regarding the matter.
Cicero Town President Larry Dominick could not be reached immediately for comment.
Agents were seeking items related to Vahooman "Shadow" Mirkhaef and any employees, officers, representatives or businesses related to him or Cub Terminal LLC or Kilpatrick Corporation.
Cub Terminal LLC has contributed $72,958 to Tobolski since 2010, and $23,500 to Sandoval since 2015. Mirkhaef is listed as the president of Kilpatrick Corp. in Secretary of State records. Kilpatrick Corp. is listed as the manager of Cub Terminal LLC in a Secretary of State filing.
Cub Terminal is a 56-acre truck and container storage and repair facility located in McCook, according to its website.
A Chicago-based environmental engineering and consulting firm where Mirkhaef is listed as president in Secretary of State records, Environmental Group Services, contributed $10,000 to Tobolski in 2010 and 2011.
Mirkhaef's attorney, Sergio Acosta, declined to comment on Friday.
Also sought by the feds were items related to SafeSpeed, a clout-heavy red-light camera company that does millions of dollars in business in Chicago's suburbs.
The company was the subject of a Tribune investigation two years ago that revealed Sandoval had interceded with the Illinois Department of Transportation on Safespeed's behalf while also taking tens of thousands of dollars in campaign donations from the company and its owner.
Safespeed issued a statement Friday in which it did not directly reference it or company officials being named in the search warrant. The statement, attributed to CEO Nikki Zollar and spokesman Dennis Culloton, said the firm does "not tolerate wrongdoing or public corruption and we support efforts to root it out."
"We base our culture on safety and partnering with law enforcement and we conduct our business ethically and with integrity. We do not condone any departure from these core values," the statement said.
The firm did not immediately respond to additional questions about its involvement in the investigation.
Sandoval has not spoken publicly in the weeks since his offices and home were raided. Pritzker and some of Sandoval's Democratic colleagues in the Senate had called for him to be removed from his Transportation Committee chairmanship.
Senate President John Cullerton has called the allegations against Sandoval "troubling," but said he will continue to monitor the situation and "take appropriate action as developments warrant."
Earlier this month, the Senate released a heavily redacted version of the search warrant in response to an open-records request, with the names of companies and 19 individuals they were seeking materials on blacked out.
Chicago Tribune reporters Juan Perez Jr. Ray Long and Joe Mahr contributed.