Former Chicago Ald. Ricardo Munoz on Thursday was indicted on federal fraud charges after prosecutors allege he used thousands of dollars from a political fund he chaired to pay for personal expenses and then lied about it in a yearslong scheme.
Munoz, 56, was charged with 15 counts of wire fraud and one count of money laundering, according to the indictment filed in the Northern District of Illinois.
Prosecutors allege in the indictment that between October 2016 and June 2020, Munoz, who chaired the Chicago Progressive Reform Caucus, used the coalition’s political action committee to transfer funds to his own accounts and made cash withdrawals for his personal use and then lied about it on financial disclosure forms.
In October 2016, prosecutors say Munoz transferred $16,000 to a joint account he held with a family member to make a university tuition payment for an unnamed person. Authorities allege he then transferred that same amount back into the CPRC’s account and told another individual the initial transfer did not need to be reported to election officials on campaign finance disclosure forms because the money had been deposited back in.
Prosecutors say in October 2018, Munoz made electronic transfers of $5,000 and $2,100 from the CPRC to his own bank account and used that money “for his own personal use and benefit,” the indictment says.
Days later, prosecutors allege he made another transfer of $2,300 from the CPRC account to his own campaign account and then transferred that money to his personal bank account without authorization, telling someone in an email that it was for “Election Day expenses” when it was for personal use.
The indictment also says Munoz made six cash withdrawals from the CPRC account between Nov. 3 and Dec. 7, 2018, that totaled $10,560, intending to use that money for personal benefit, again telling someone in an email that several of those withdrawals did not have to be reported because funds had been transferred back in, even though they had not.
Prosecutors also allege that Munoz used the CPRC debit card to make several personal purchases from November 2018 through February 2019: $544.98 on a Southwest Airlines ticket, $169.32 on Los Angeles Kings tickets, $291.44 in charges for a stay at the Los Angeles Crowne Plaza hotel, $265.77 at Eddie Vs Restaurant and $160.48 for items purchased from Lover’s Lane, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges he also “fraudulently used CPRC funds to pay for, among other things, jewelry; cufflinks; a loan payment on one of Munoz’s personal vehicles; women’s clothing; three Apple iPhones and accessories; aerial sightseeing trips; sports tickets; skydiving excursions; and other entertainment expenses.”
Reached by phone Thursday afternoon, Munoz declined to comment on the indictment.
Each count of wire fraud could carry a sentence of up to 20 years in federal prison while the money laundering charge has a maximum sentence of 10 years, officials said.
Munoz was alderman for the city’s 22nd Ward from 1993 through 2019, when he chose not to run for reelection. He first took office when then-Mayor Richard M. Daley appointed him to replace now-Rep. Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, who had left City Council for the Illinois Senate.
The Southwest Side ward includes parts of the Little Village, South Lawndale and Archer Heights neighborhoods.