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Chicago Public Schools Staffer Pleads Guilty to Lying to FBI

A former Chicago public school staffer has pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI concerning the divulging of information related to a custodial contract to one of the bidders. Pedro Soto is accused of leaking bid information to one of the bidders and then lying about the fact to the FBI.

Soto resigned from his position as one of Janice Jackson’s top aides after it was discovered that he leaked deliberations concerning the $1 billion contract to one of the bidders in exchange for “various benefits.” The prosecution was the cherry on top of an investigation into Alderman Daniel Solis who was recorded trading favors on wiretapped conversations. Soto and Solis are linked together by a political operative known as “Individual B” who helped broker deals between the men. This individual has not been charged with any crime and thus their identity remains a secret.

Soto Reaches a Plea Deal

Soto is cooperating with federal authorities and will spend a maximum of six months behind bars. The U.S. attorney will delay his sentencing until his contribution to their case is over. Soto is hoping that his cooperation buys him leniency in the form of no jail time.

Chicago’s Reputation for Corruption

Chicago has a reputation for corruption, but it is not always obvious how these schemes work. Essentially, the government has a vested interest in maintaining the illusion of non-bias. This is important when it comes to private entities securing government contracts. Particularly lucrative contracts, like the $1 billion maintenance and custodial contract mentioned above, are highly sought after. This puts those “in the know” with a massively valuable parcel of information: How the deliberations are going and what is being decided.

If, for instance, I am a bidder on a government contract, I might want to give one of the major players money or a valuable position to someone who provides me with information that helps the contract go to me. Alternatively, an individual knowing how valuable these contracts are can either influence the decision-making process or collect kickbacks on contract awards. 

Barbara Byrd-Bennet, who was the CEO of CPS prior to Janice Jackson faced just such a prosecution. She was charged with collecting over $20 million in kickbacks after steering contracts to a company for which she previously worked. 

While this all sounds really bad, it is not clear what, if any, impact Soto’s misjudgment had on the awarding of the contract and it is equally unclear that he received anything in return for the information he provided. Soto pleaded guilty to “making false statements” which carries a maximum penalty of five years.

In case you are wondering, neither the Fifth nor First Amendment protects an individual who knowingly makes a false statement. You can, and should, keep your mouth shut, however.

Talk to a Chicago Criminal Defense Attorney

Federal crimes are prosecuted differently than state crimes. Evidence is presented from federal agencies like the FBI, DEA, SEC, and all the other alphabet agencies. You need an attorney who understands federal procedure and can help resolve your case in a way that you can live with. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to learn more about how we can help. 

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