Mayor Daley and his goons have one powerful weapon that controls the elections in Chicago. Contracts. Mayor Daley and his family prospered despite the boom and bust cycles of the economy. The FEDS never took the time to take apart the miracle minority fortunes made almost overnight. The Office of the Inspector General never made any connections to the upper Daley family confidents that decide who gets what and when. When a minority company is blessed by Daley, they show up all over the State, County, and City. The Chicago Unions keep away and workers are paid well below prevailing wage. The insiders have their flavor of the day, when the ice-cream melts so do the contracts. John Kass wrote a great article about Morales, it is below for your entertainment. Morales rests in jail and no reporter asked Daley what he knew; they did not want to offend Daley. No reporter asked Daley if his administration launched an investigation into the City officials that had contact with Marco. I guess they do not want to offend Dick Tator. Patrick McDonough.
Kass: Forgotten man Morales pleads guilty
June 18, 2010|By John KassThe 65-year-old man in the orange jumpsuit and chunky mustache stood before U.S. Judge William Hart to say the magic words.
"Guilty, Your Honor," Marco Morales said Thursday, pleading to a one-kilo cocaine charge, even though there was a lot more to it than cocaine.
By then the courtroom was all but empty, with no one in the gallery but his ex-wife Stella Lila Morales, his granddaughter, my colleague Wings and me.
There was a time when a guilty plea by Marco Morales would have struck fear into City Hall and the tough guys who've been propping up Chicago politicians for a century now.
Fourteen years ago, Morales was a city contractor busted on a federal cocaine charge. He said he'd been threatened by the Chicago Outfit to keep his mouth shut about bribes he says he paid to top Daley administration officials.
Allowed to drive himself to prison in 1997 to serve 59 months on the narcotics conviction, Marco drove instead to Mexico and kept his mouth shut there for years.
This being Chicago, almost immediately after he fled, a miracle happened.
With Morales unavailable to a federal grand jury, Mayor Richard Daley's administration showered Morales' son with $40 million in city contracts, with more to come year after year.
So if Thursday were only a few years ago, there would have been a crowd waiting for Marco: courtroom sketch artists, TV cameras staking out the lobby and political snitches on cell phones calling their bosses.
Back then, the Morales appearance would have been closely watched by City Hall and by Daley's buddies (and Marco's old pals) like trucking boss Mike Tadin and former city Transportation Department chief Tony Pucillo.
Perhaps somebody would have thought to call Marco's favorite hot dog stand in Bridgeport, to let reputed Outfit street boss Frank "Toots" Caruso know what was on Marco's lips.
But not now.
"Those days, there were the Pucillos and Tadins and the Carusos around him," Stella Lila told me. "They'd slap my husband's back, they'd call him a big man, they would call him 'El Presidente' and then they would wink at each other."
Lila, as she's called, began to cry as she remembered it.
"And I would tell him, 'Wake up! Marco, wake up!'" Lila said.
El Presidente Marco had a wife and a girlfriend and kids from each, and money and influential friends. But Thursday's Marco was an old man with diabetes and high blood pressure facing at least five years in prison.
He wiggled his fingers in a little wave to his ex-wife, a sad smile under that sad moustache. There were no crowds for him.
The crowds were for other stories, on other floors in the federal building, stories with real star power. Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich was preening before the jury in his corruption trial. And in another courtroom, former Chicago police Cmdr. Jon Burge was testifying that he never tortured suspects.
Marco was the forgotten man.
There were civil lawyers in Hart's courtroom, waiting for their cases to be called. Wearing suits, these men and women of expensive educations, these people of writs and procedures, were not of Marco's world.
So he spent the better part of an hour tuning them out and staring out the window, to the south, as if he could stare himself back to Mexico.
"I went up to seventh grade, right here in the U.S.," Morales said. "I came here in 1956. I started from washing dishes to road construction. I worked in factories and then I was president of a company."
The company was called Polmex Construction, a minority-owned subcontractor in a massive Daley-backed project to scrape and repave every street and alley in the city.
Marco may have been El Presidente. But he wasn't the boss. The mayor's guy, Tadin, was boss. And the man who oversaw it all for Daley's Department of Transportation was Pucillo.
The three of them -- Pucillo, Daley and Tadin -- were seen riding in the same golf cart at Department of Transportation outings. It was a signal to the lowliest laborer that the mayor had blessed the paving deal.
Everything was working fine the Chicago Way until Morales helped a friend score some cocaine. That friend was John Christopher, the FBI's informant in a separate investigation, Operation Silver Shovel, a probe of corrupt aldermen.
When Morales got caught up in the Silver Shovel case, Chicago's established political order was terrified.
He got the message to keep his mouth shut, and rather than drive to prison, he drove himself to the Yucatan. His son began getting all those city contracts. A new federal prosecutor came to Chicago, and after a long extradition fight, Marco was finally brought back home last September.
Statutes of limitations on corruption cases have long expired. Some of the insiders like Tadin are wealthy beyond imagining. Others are gone or retired. The politicians skated free. If Morales has cooperated in any federal case, the feds aren't saying.
Hart said he'll meet with the lawyers in August to discuss sentencing. Marshals led Marco away, shackled, to the federal lockup. He smiled and waved his fingers at his ex-wife and the door closed and then he was gone.
And what of the men who called him El Presidente?
"Everybody is retired, comfortable, they made their money, they got their pensions, now they're free," said Lila of the men who once slapped her ex-husband's back and smiled. "The statute of limitations is gone.
"He's no threat to them now. But somebody has to pay. And that's Marco."