Ed Burke, a former Chicago Alderman for more than 50 years and ex-chairman of the nation's third-largest city's finance committee, was convicted by a federal jury Dec. 21 of racketeering conspiracy, bribery of property developers and 11 other counts involving using his elected office to win private law business from developers of projects large and small within the city.

In addition, Burke was convicted in the Everett McKinley Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago of federal program bribery, attempted extortion, conspiracy to commit extortion and using interstate commerce to facilitate an unlawful activity. He was acquitted on one count of conspiracy to commit extortion related to the redevelopment of a Burger King in his ward. 

Charles Cui, the developer of the Burger King project, was convicted of bribing Burke and Burke's longtime, aide, Peter Andrews, who was acquitted of the conspiracy charges he faced. Burke, 79, faces a minimum of 30 years in federal prison and 20 years there on the racketeering charge, alone. 

Burke sought favors and business for his real estate law firm, Klafter & Burke, in return for helping to move the $800-million Old Main Post Office rehabilitation project forward. At trial, Burke's attorneys tried to convince the jury that only then-Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel had sole power to move such a project forward or stall it. However, Burke was recorded by former Chicago Alderman Danny Solis, a cooperating witness for the FBI and the U.S. Attorney's office, saying he would "share the wealth" with Solis if his law firm was hired. 

The wiretapped conversations revealed Burke telling Solis, whose Chicago ward the Old Main Post Office site was in, that he would be paid as a “marketing associate” by Klafter & Burke. 601W eventually retained Klafter & Burke for a $45,000 contingency fee over three years and Burke never disclosed the conflict of interest to Chicago ethics officials.

“601W Companies was the victim of a corrupt solicitation by Alderman Burke, who the indictment alleges engaged in a persistent, two-year effort to obtain private legal business from the company for his law firm,” 601W said in a statement after the indictment was made public. “The government has informed 601W and its representatives that it was victimized. 601W and its representatives have and will continue to voluntarily provide information to the government on this matter.”

Burke's attorneys told the jury Solis was unreliable and the government did not call him as a witness because he was cooperating after being investigated for his own crimes that were eventually pleaded down, thanks to his cooperation. The jury deliberated for 23 hours before returning the verdicts. 

Prosecutors for the office of acting U.S. Attorney Morris Pasqual played audio recordings of Burke asking Solis "did we land the,uh, tuna" and mentioning "the cash register has not rung yet" in regard to the Old Post Office and other development deals. Chicago officials acknowledged that Burke's methods were known and were viewed for years as part of the system of "aldermanic" privilege that gives aldermen on the city council sway over projects in their wards. Although some did speak out against it, former Chicago Aviation Commissioner Ginger Evans said, in a detailed memorandum, that Burke put pressure on her staff regarding contracts and payments on a regular basis.

"For decades Ed Burke enriched himself and controlled a mighty city through power and intimidation,” she said. “His many conflicts were an open secret. Thank goodness that the FBI cannot be intimidated. Many, many council members serve honestly to help their communities. I’m glad his heel has been lifted from their proceedings and that Chicago commissioners no longer have to deal with his demands.”