Chicago Ald. Willie Cochran Pleads Guilty to Fraud Charge

Chicago Ald. Willie Cochran pleaded guilty to a felony charge of wire fraud Thursday in part of a plea deal that led prosecutors to drop 14 of the 15 counts against him.

According to the Chicago Tribune, Cochran admitted in court that he stole $14,000 in charitable donations to the 20th Ward Activities Fund meant to go to poor children and seniors.

Authorities alleged Cochran, a former Chicago police officer, used the money from the charitable fund in part to pay for his daughter’s college tuition and roughly $25,000 on gambling at casinos.

The plea agreement reportedly calls for Cochran to be sentenced to anywhere from probation to between one and one-and-a-half years. Cochran had previously announced he would resign at some point this month as he mulled the deal. 

In December 2016, Cochran was charged with a total of 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of federal program bribery and two counts of extortion.

He was also accused of soliciting a bribe from a liquor store owner in exchange for the passage of an ordinance allowing liquor sales in the store’s two-block area, plus the solicitation of a bribe from an attorney representing real estate developers with properties in the ward.

Cochran originally entered a plea of not guilty in 2016, then rejected a plea deal in 2018, setting the stage for a trial before apparently choosing to plead guilty at the Thursday hearing. .

He announced in 2017 that he would not run again, though he said his decision had nothing to do with his indictment. Cochran is the third 20th Ward alderman to face charges, with two of his predecessors – Cliff Kelley and Arenda Troutman – imprisoned for fraud.

Two candidates – Jeannette Taylor and Nicole Johnson – emerged from a wide field of nine hoping to replace him, and will face one another in a runoff election on April 2.

The 20th Ward includes parts of the Woodlawn, Back of the Yards, Canaryville, Washington Park and Englewood neighborhoods on the city’s South Side.

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