The son-in-law of onetime Cook County Democratic boss Joseph Berrios has been indicted for his alleged role in a bribery scheme that brought down ex-state Rep. Luis Arroyo and exposed a shadowy lobbying effort to expand sweepstakes gaming machines.
James Weiss, 41, was charged in a superseding indictment made public Friday with bribery, wire fraud, mail fraud, and lying to the FBI. Weiss is married to Berrios’ daughter, former state Rep. Toni Berrios.
The indictment also added new wire and mail fraud charges against Arroyo, who was originally charged in October 2019 with one count of federal program bribery and had been on track to plead guilty.
According to the charges, Arroyo agreed to pay a state senator $2,500 a month in kickbacks in exchange for the senator’s support on legislation involving video gambling sweepstakes games that would benefit Weiss, who was in the sweepstakes business and was one of Arroyo’s lobbying clients.
The senator has not been named in court documents, but the Chicago Tribune has reported he is Terry Link, a Vernon Hills Democrat who resigned from office before pleading guilty to tax evasion charges last month.
Both Weiss and Arroyo will be arraigned on the new indictment at a later date.
Weiss’ involvement in the bribery probe was first reported by the Tribune last year after the the FBI raided Weiss’ business offices. He declined to comment on his role in the investigation at the time, telling a reporter outside his River Grove home, “I have no idea what’s going on.”
The case centers on the largely uncharted world of sweepstakes machines, sometimes called “gray machines,” which allow customers to put in money, receive a coupon to redeem for merchandise online and then play electronic games like slot machines.
Since the machines can be played for free, they are not considered gambling devices. Critics, however, contend the unregulated devices, which operate in cities like Chicago that have banned video gambling, are designed to skirt the law.
According to prosecutors, the then-state senator — identified only as CW-1 — had told the FBI that Arroyo approached him about “the passage of sweepstakes-related legislation” during the House’s 2019 spring session.
At the time, Arroyo was a manager of a lobbying firm called Spartacus 3 LLC, which included Weiss’ company as a client.
In early August, Arroyo texted the senator asking to meet at a restaurant in Highland Park, according to the complaint. Also at the meeting was Weiss as well as one of Weiss’ associates.
During the meeting, Arroyo said he was going to introduce a “trailer bill” in the veto session expanding the use of sweepstakes games and offered to make periodic payments to the senator in exchange for his support, according to the complaint.
Three weeks later, the senator was wearing an FBI wire when Arroyo allegedly delivered the first of the promised $2,500 checks at a restaurant in Skokie.
“This is, this is the jackpot,” Arroyo allegedly told the senator as he handed over the money.
Additional monthly $2,500 payments were expected to be made over the next six to 12 months, federal authorities alleged.
Weiss later emailed the state senator a note of thanks.
“I appreciate your help and assistance,” Weiss wrote, according to prosecutors. “I know there are challenges in front of me with sweepstakes. Please let me know if there is anyone else you would recommend I meet with and share information.”
In addition to marrying into the politically powerful Berrios family, Weiss is also a grandson of former Deputy City Treasurer Edward Murray, a longtime Bridgeport precinct captain and friend of former Mayor Richard M. Daley. Murray also served as a financial officer for the Chicago Public Schools.
Weiss and his chief business partner own a string of valet companies that have millions of dollars in city contracts to park cars on CPS properties as well as other city-owned locations, records show.
State business records show Weiss’ sweepstakes machine business is also connected to former Chicago police Officer John Adreani through a complex web of corporations, many of which list the same address in a south suburban strip mall as their headquarters.
Adreani was fired from the Police Department five years ago for associating with a major drug trafficker after he was captured on a wiretap discussing gambling and drinking excursions and real estate ventures with him, according to Chicago Police Board records.
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