(The Center Square) – Former state Sen. Terry Link pleaded guilty Wednesday to filing a false tax return, but he could avoid time behind bars if he cooperates with federal prosecutors. 

Link, a Democrat, resigned from the Senate last week. On Wednesday, he pleaded guilty to a single count of filing a false tax return.

Prosecutors said Link’s income in 2016 was about $358,000. He told the IRS he earned $264,450 that year.

In the plea agreement, Link said he spent at least $73,000 from a campaign fund on personal expenses in 2016.

"Approximately $73,159 of that amount was money that defendant spent on personal expenses with money from a bank account controlled by defendant’s campaign, Friends of Terry Link," according to the plea agreement.

He also filed false income returns for tax years 2012 through 2015, reducing his taxes to the IRS and Illinois Department of Revenue by about $83,000, the Tribune reported.

Link could face a sentence of 10 to 16 months in prison, but prosecutors said they will recommend probation if he cooperates, the Chicago Tribune reported.

Link was indicted on federal tax evasion charges last month for taxes owed from 2016, according to court records.

At that time he resigned his position with the Legislative Ethics Commission.

Link in 2019 denied he was the lawmaker who wore a wire for federal prosecutors that led prosecutors to file bribery charges against former state Rep. Luis Arroyo in 2019, despite media reports that he did.

A footnote in the charging documents against Arroyo identified the unnamed state senator who agreed to wear a wire as “Cooperating Witness 1." It also noted the senator had been working with the FBI until Nov. 3, 2016.

Arroyo resigned after being charged, and just before a House Special Investigating Committee convened to review the charges against him and possibly recommend discipline.

Link's case is the latest involving public officials in Illinois.

U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois John Lausch's office reached a deferred prosecution agreement with ComEd, one the state's largest utilities, in July. That case, and another involving a former ComEd executive, implicated Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Earlier this month, prosecutors charged former ComEd vice president Fidel Marquez with bribery conspiracy in what prosecutors say was a nearly 10-year scheme to curry favor with Madigan.

The criminal complaint filed in the Northern District of Illinois against Fidel Marquez alleges that, for nearly a decade, he conspired “with others known and unknown” to solicit and demand things of value like jobs, contracts and money, for the benefit of “Public Official A.”

Marquez was the vice president of governmental and external affairs for ComEd from 2012 to September 2019.

The charges don’t name “Public Official A,” but identify the official as the Speaker of the House of Representatives. Madigan, D-Chicago, has held that position for all but two years since 1983.

“Public Official A was able to exercise control over what measures were called for a vote in the House of Representatives,” according to the charging documents. “Public Official A also exercises substantial influence and control over fellow lawmakers concerning legislation, including legislation affecting ComEd.”

In October 2019, then Exelon Utilities CEO Anne Pramaggiore abruptly resigned amid questions about the company's lobbying activity and connection to former state Sen. Martin Sandoval, who later pleaded guilty to accepting bribes to protect a red-light camera company. ComEd is a subsidiary of Exelon.

Madigan has denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime.

Regional Editor

Brett Rowland has worked as a reporter in newsrooms in Illinois and Wisconsin. He most recently served as news editor of the Northwest Herald in Crystal Lake, Illinois. He previously held the same position at the Daily Chronicle in DeKalb.