By James B. Kelleher
CHICAGO (Reuters) - A prominent public official in Chicago was indicted on Thursday on federal tax charges for allegedly diverting campaign funds and other monies to pay for personal expenses while failing to report it as income.
The four-count indictment alleges that Cook County Commissioner William Beavers paid himself more than $225,000 between 2006 and 2008 from campaign funds and a county expense account and spent at least some of the money for personal purposes, including gambling.
Illinois' last two governors and four out of the past seven were convicted of federal crimes.
"If politicians choose to use their campaign funds for personal use then they, like all the citizens they serve, share the obligation to honestly report their income and pay the correct amount of taxes," Patrick Fitzgerald, the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, said in a statement.
"The indictment alleges that over a course of three years, Commissioner Beavers repeatedly used his campaign accounts for personal use and then thwarted the Internal Revenue Service by causing his campaign committees to create false records to cover it up."
No one answered the phone at Beaver's downtown office on Thursday afternoon. A message requesting comment that was left with his office on the city's southside was not immediately returned. An e-mail sent to his county account was also unanswered.
The Chicago Sun-Times newspaper reported that Beavers, a 77-year-old former Chicago policeman, claimed he was indicted because he refused to cooperate with investigators who wanted him to wear a wire as he talked with another county commissioner.
"I told them I'm too old to be a stool pigeon," the paper reported Beavers saying.
Beavers told the Sun-Times and other media outlets that the actual target of the investigation was fellow Cook County Commissioner John Daley, the brother of former Chicago Mayor Richard Daley and former White House Chief of Staff William Daley.
Fitzgerald's office refused to comment on Beavers' allegations, saying prosecutors "don't comment on people not charged."
John Daley told Reuters "the indictment today is about one person -- William Beavers."
Beavers, who served as a member of the Chicago city council from 1983 until 2006, when he was elected as a county commissioner, is charged with three counts of filing false tax returns and one count of corruptly endeavoring to obstruct and impede the IRS.
Each count of the indictment carries a maximum penalty of three years in prison, prosecutors said in a statement.
The indictment of Beavers comes a week after a study was published that ranked Chicago first in the nation for public corruption convictions.
The analysis, based on U.S. Department of Justice statistics, found there were 1,531 convictions for public corruption in the Northern District of Illinois, which includes Chicago, since 1976 -- more than in any other federal district.
(Additional reporting by Andrew Stern; Editing by Tim Gaynor)