CHICAGO — A former high-ranking official in a labor union was sentenced today to more than a year and a half in federal prison for accepting $325,000 in unlawful cash payments from a Chicago business and failing to report the payments on his tax returns.
JOHN T. COLI SR., 63, of Putnam, Ill., pleaded guilty pursuant to a cooperation plea agreement in 2019 to one count of receiving a prohibited payment as a union officer and one count of making a false income tax return. The government recommended a sentence of 19 months in prison and U.S. District Chief Judge Rebecca R. Pallmeyer imposed that term after a hearing in federal court in Chicago.
The sentence was announced by John R. Lausch, Jr., United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois; John Morales, Acting Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Field Office of the FBI; Irene Lindow, Special Agent-in-Charge of the U.S. Department of Labor’s Office of Inspector General in Chicago; and Justin Campbell, Special Agent-in-Charge of the IRS Criminal Investigation Division in Chicago. The government was represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Amarjeet S. Bhachu.
Coli served from 2000 to 2017 as the Secretary-Treasurer of Teamsters Local Union 727. Coli admitted in a plea agreement that from 2014 to 2017, he received quarterly payments of $25,000 from a Chicago business that employed workers represented by Local 727. Coli acknowledged in the plea agreement that had law enforcement not intervened, he expected to receive four more quarterly payments from the company and then retire from the union.
The tax count pertained to Coli’s knowing and willful failure to report the secret payments as income for the calendar years 2014 through 2016. This conduct resulted in a federal tax loss of approximately $105,000 and a State of Illinois tax loss of approximately $12,500.
In addition, Coli acknowledged in the plea agreement that he received other income and benefits from representatives of businesses that dealt with Local 727 that were not properly disclosed to the U.S. Department of Labor. The benefits included meals in Las Vegas and other cities, free box seat tickets to National Football League and Major League Baseball games, use of a yacht in the U.S. and Italy, and periodic cash payments.