City of Chicago Alderman Pleads Guilty to Federal Fraud Charge for Using Charitable Funds to Pay Personal Expenses
CHICAGO — City of Chicago Alderman WILLIE B. COCHRAN pleaded guilty today to a federal fraud charge for pocketing money from a charitable fund intended to help families and children in his South Side ward.
Cochran, 66, of Chicago, pleaded guilty to one count of wire fraud. The conviction is punishable by up to 20 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Jorge L. Alonso set sentencing for June 20, 2019, at 2:00 p.m.
The guilty plea was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; and Jeffrey S. Sallet, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The FBI initiated the investigation after receiving information from the former City of Chicago Legislative Inspector General’s Office, which was headed at that time by Faisal Khan. The government is represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Heather McShain and Christopher Stetler.
While representing the 20th Ward in the Chicago City Council, Cochran operated the “20th Ward Activities Fund,” which he purported to use for charitable endeavors to help families and children living in the ward. Cochran controlled a bank account connected to the fund. When soliciting donations to the fund, Cochran falsely represented that all contributions would be used for charitable events, including a back-to-school picnic, a Valentine’s Day party for senior citizens, and events during the holiday season in November and December.
Cochran admitted in a plea agreement that he used some of the contribution money for his own personal use, including paying his daughter’s college tuition, withdrawing cash at casino ATM’s, and purchasing items for his home. From January 2010 to April 2014, Cochran pocketed approximately $14,285 from the fund and converted the money to his own personal use, the plea agreement states.