The son of former state Rep. Edward Acevedo was found guilty by a federal jury Monday of tax evasion charges that were an offshoot of the investigation into Commonwealth Edison’s alleged attempts to influence then-House Speaker Michael Madigan.
After a quick, three-day trial, the jury deliberated only about 45 minutes before finding Alex Acevedo guilty on two counts of willfully filing false tax returns that underreported his lobbying income by about $70,000 in 2016 and 2018, resulting in a total tax loss of about $20,000.
Acevedo, 37, showed no outward reaction to the jury’s decision. He faces up to three years in prison on each count when he’s sentenced in July.
Though relatively minor in scope, the indictment against Acevedo, along with separate charges filed against his younger brother and their father, received widespread attention due to the connection to the ComEd probe.
Acevedo’s attorney, Ricardo Meza, repeatedly alleged in court filings that it was clear investigators were after Madigan, not his client. During a proffer meeting between Alex Acevedo and prosecutors in February 2020, at least 75% of the questions asked by the government “pertained to Mr. Madigan and his associates,” Meza wrote in one motion last year.
“However, when (Alex) Acevedo’s truthful responses did not seem to align with what the government sought to hear, the IRS agent pivoted and began asking Mr. Acevedo questions about his 2016 and 2018 tax returns,” Meza wrote.
According to the charges, Acevedo, a registered nurse who previously made failed election bids for Chicago alderman, failed to report earnings from Apex Strategy LLC, a lobbying and consulting firm formed by his brother, Michael, in 2015, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors alleged Alex Acevedo did most of the work on several of Apex Strategy’s contracts, including one with the Associated Beer Distributors of Illinois trade association. But all of Acevedo’s income was off the books, with no W-2 form issued and no other paperwork reporting it to the IRS.
“Apex was a virtual black box,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Timothy Chapman said in his opening statement Thursday.
Chapman said that as a lobbyist and son of a longtime state lawmaker, Alex was sophisticated enough to know that he had to report the money but failed to do so out of greed.
“It was intentional all the way along,” Chapman said. “He knew he was getting the money, and he was spending the money.”
Meza, however, however, said the case was really just about a “common man” who was doing his best under the circumstances — not about politics or greed or his father. Meza said Acevedo was simply waiting for the paperwork from his brother and was under pressure to file his returns on time and made a mistake.
“This case has nothing to do with his dad,” Meza told jurors in his opening remarks. “ … It is about the common man who sometimes makes errors.”
He likened his “error” to the famous flub by Boston Red Sox first baseman Bill Buckner, who had a ground ball go through his legs in Game 6 of the 1986 World Series, which was ultimately won by the New York Mets.
“We all make errors. Alex makes errors,” Meza said.
Edward Acevedo, 59, pleaded guilty to skirting about $37,000 in taxes by misreporting lobbying income he’d received over three years. He was sentenced in March 2022 to six months in prison and was released in December, records show.
Michael Acevedo, 36, pleaded guilty last month to failing to file tax returns documenting five years of revenues for Apex Strategy. He’s scheduled to be sentenced on March 15.
ComEd agreed in 2020 to pay a record $200 million fine as prosecutors unveiled a criminal complaint charging the company with a yearslong bribery scheme involving jobs, contracts and payments to Madigan allies. Under the terms of a deferred prosecution agreement with the government, the charges against the utility giant will be dropped if the company continues to cooperate.
In November 2020, Madigan’s longtime confidant Michael McClain and three others were charged. They’re scheduled to go on trial March 6.
Meanwhile, last year AT&T Illinois and the phone giant’s former president, Paul La Schiazza, were charged in a similar scheme to funnel payments to Edward Acevedo in exchange for the speaker’s help passing legislation important to the company.
La Schiazza, 65, has pleaded not guilty to conspiracy, federal program bribery, and using a facility in interstate commerce to promote unlawful activity.
AT&T Illinois has entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with the U.S. attorney’s office, admitting its role in the scheme and agreeing to pay $23 million and cooperate in the investigation. In exchange, prosecutors will drop criminal charges filed against the company in two years.
Madigan and McClain were both charged in a separate indictment in March 2022 with racketeering conspiracy alleging they participated in a range of corrupt schemes, including the ComEd and AT&T Illinois bribery.
The scandal helped end Madigan’s reign as the nation’s longest-serving speaker in January 2021. Madigan later resigned from the Illinois House and as Illinois Democratic Party chairman.
In April 2017, La Schiazza approved a deal to secretly funnel $2,500 a month to Edward Acevedo through a lobbying company already doing business with AT&T Illinois, according to the statement. The lobbying company was not named in the court filings.
At McClain’s direction, AT&T employees then met with Edward Acevedo to discuss a “pretextual” reason for the payments: to “prepare a report on the political dynamics of the General Assembly’s and Chicago City Council’s Latino Caucuses,” according to the statement of facts.
Edward Acevedo never did any real work for AT&T Illinois, however. In fact, according to AT&T’s admissions in court, he balked at first at the payments, saying they were too low. But he agreed to the deal after McClain stepped in and said the amount was “sufficient.”
From June 2017 to January 2018, Edward Acevedo was paid a total of $22,500 in monthly installments. According to AT&T’s admission, the former representative “did not complete the purported assignment” on Latino politics, and “no efforts were undertaken” by AT&T to ensure work was being done in exchange for the money.