The son-in-law of Joseph Barrios has pled not guilty to federal bribery charges in October. 41-year-old James Weiss is accused of bribing a state representative and senator for legislation that would benefit gaming and gambling operations in Cook County.
Weiss will face eight counts of bribery, fraud, mail fraud, and lying to the FBI. The indictment also added charges to Luis Arroyo’s case which initially involved defrauding a federal program. Arroyo will face expanded charges of wire and mail fraud. Both men have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
Sweepstakes Machines or Gray Machines
These machines exploit a loophole in the law. A customer puts in money and then receives a redeemable coupon that can be used online to play online games. However, since the machines can be played without putting in any money, they are not considered gambling machines. These machines are placed in cities like Chicago where gambling machines are illegal.
According to the indictment, Weiss paid sums of money to Arroyo in exchange for legislation that would benefit Weiss’s gambling machines. These bribes were paid to Arroyo’s consulting firm via under-the-table payments which Arroyo failed to report. The pair also allegedly conspired to pay a state senator for his support of such legislation. The senator, Terry Link, resigned amid an unrelated tax evasion scandal. Arroyo has also resigned his office.
Federal Bribery Charges
Federal bribery charges that are prosecuted under the RICO Act can have sentences of up to 20 years. Typically, the maximum sentence for bribery is 15 years under federal statutes, unless there was no “quid pro quo” in which case it would be two years. However, prosecutors have broad discretion when it comes to filing charges and can file charges related to bribery, mail fraud, wire fraud, or whatever they please to produce prosecutions with a lower burden of proof while simultaneously maximizing the length of the sentence. Additionally, public corruption can be prosecuted under the Hobbs Act which safeguards interstate commerce.
Federal bribery laws prohibit the distribution of money directly to a congressperson or public office holder for the purpose of eliciting some kind of legislative benefit. What gets confusing is the question of lobbying. Campaign funds are separate from an individual politician’s personal bank account. So you can “bribe” someone by donating to their political campaign, but if that money goes directly to them, you have committed a crime.
While these cases may seem cut and dried, there is a lot of ambiguity when it comes to the transfer of funds, and the prosecution must prove an “intent to influence” which can be difficult in some cases.
Talk to a Cook County Criminal Defense Attorney
If you are facing federal charges in Cook County, then you want a criminal defense attorney who has experience arguing in federal courts. Call David Freidberg today at (312) 560-7100 to learn more about how we can protect your rights and future against overzealous prosecutors.