CHICAGO (CN) – Two Chicago politicians, former Cook County Commissioner Joseph Moreno and former Alderman Ambrosio Medrano, were federally charged Thursday with accepting bribes in return for political favors.
During the undercover investigation, Moreno, a Cook County commissioner for 16 years until 2010, allegedly told a cooperating witness, “I don’t want to be a hog; I just want to be a pig. Hogs get slaughtered, pigs get fat,” the Justice Department said in a statement announcing the indictments.
Moreno and Medrano, former alderman of the 25th Ward, were arrested Thursday and charged with soliciting bribes in a scheme to persuade Stroger Hospital to buy Dermafill-brand bandages from two businessmen and co-defendants, Stanley Wozniak and Gerald Lombardi Sr. and Jr.
Stroger Hospital is a large public hospital in central Chicago.
When the hospital refused to buy Dermafill bandages without conducting clinical trials, an FBI undercover agent posed as a purchasing agent for the county hospital system and agreed to place an initial order of $10,000 bandages, with bigger orders to come. Medrano allegedly gave the agent $1,872 in cash for arranging the deal.
The indictment cites numerous text-message conversations between the four parties, including a message Lombardi Sr. allegedly sent to Moreno that stated: “Hermano. Are we eating huevos de toro [bull testicles] or steak. Please let me know.”
The FBI undercover officer, Brendan O’Leary said in an affidavit: “I understand this to be a question as to whether they will be rich or poor based on Moreno’s scheduled meeting with County Hospital Official B.”
Moreno and Medrano were charged in two of three related indictments, the Justice Department said.
The government claims that Medrano introduced the same undercover agent to James Barta and Gustavo Buenrostro. Again, Medrano tried to bribe the agent, this time “in exchange for a promise to use Sav-Rx to perform mail-order prescription drug services for County A’s hospital system,” the Justice Department said.
Sav-Rx is a Nebraska-based provider of prescription drug services.
Moreno also was charged with accepting $5,000 to use his position on the Town of Cicero’s Local Business Assistance Committee to approve a waste transfer development.
If convicted, the two pols face a maximum sentence of 10 years in prison for each count of bribery.
If Medrano is convicted, it will be the second time he goes to prison for bribery. Sixteen years ago he served 30 months in federal prison for accepting $31,000 in bribes from a felon-turned-FBI mole in an investigation known as Operation Silver Shovel, the Chicago Sun-Times reportedtoday (Friday).
Medrano refused to be a “snitch” back then and wear a wire to snare other politicians, which is considered a worse sin in Chicago politics than the crime for which he served time, the Sun-Times reported.