In the first guilty plea in the federal probe of Chicago's Hired Truck Program, an operator of a trucking company admitted Wednesday that he lied to the FBI about paying bribes to get and keep work in the scandal-scarred program.
Martin McDonagh, 38, of Naperville agreed to testify against co-defendant John Boyle, a former city worker alleged to have helped grease the skids so that McDonagh was admitted to the program while it was officially closed to new entrants.
Also in U.S. District Court on Wednesday, attorneys for Angelo Torres, the former Hired Truck director accused of shaking down trucking companies, said he intends to plead guilty as well. U.S. District Judge James Holderman set the change of plea for March 18.
Another defendant, Jason Martin, a former city engineer, is also expected to plead guilty at that time.
That would leave Boyle, nicknamed "Quarters" for his role in the theft of millions of dollars in coins from the Illinois State Toll Highway Authority, as the lone defendant to go to trial in the indictment.
The ongoing probe of the Hired Truck Program has so far yielded indictments against 27 defendants, 14 of them former city employees.
At Boyle's direction, McDonagh admitted that his trucking company, Elliott Inc., gained entry to the program in 2003 after he hand-delivered an envelope containing $1,500 cash to Nick LoCoco, then a city employee who held sway in doling out truck work. LoCoco, who was charged in the probe, died in December following a horse-riding accident.
For more than a year, McDonagh admitted, he paid Boyle in part so that his business would continue to receive city work. Some of the money was in the form of "loans" that Boyle, in part, paid back. According to McDonagh's plea agreement, the net payoffs to Boyle totaled about $16,000, including up to $6,000 in cash.
In return, McDonagh's business received more than $175,000 in city business in 2003 and 2004, though he didn't really profit in the scheme, the plea agreement said.
McDonagh also admitted that Boyle solicited him to make two campaign contributions totaling $2,500 to an undisclosed ward organization on specific dates in 2003 and 2004.
State campaign records show that the only contribution that McDonagh made on one of those dates was to the Democratic ward political fund controlled by Ald. Isaac Carothers (29th). Carothers didn't return a call Wednesday seeking comment, but he previously denied any knowledge of Boyle soliciting campaign funds on his behalf.