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.
© Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune/Chicago Tribune/TNS
Ex-Rep. Luis Arroyo, left, and his attorney Michael Gillespie, walk out of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse after pleading not guilty in his arraignment on corruption charges, Feb. 4, 2020.
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