Just discovered: 'Chicago's most powerful alderman' used 'burner' cell phones
It is a sign of the depth of governmental corruption of our age in America that the distinctions between government and gangsterism are blurring. Now, news comes from Chicago that federal investigators who have already indicted Alderman Edward M. Burke on 14 counts of corruption have discovered that "Chicago's most powerful alderman" used a series of "burner" cell phones that he assigned a staff member to buy for him.
If you are not a viewer of police dramas, a burner phone is a cheap cell phone with an anonymous contract for pay-as-you-go cell phone usage. Burners enable drug-dealers and other criminals to evade wiretap warrants because their ownership of the cell phone number is not available to authorities. It is a gangster tactic.
Fran Spielman, Tim Novak, and Jon Seidel of the Chicago Sun-Times report:
Indicted Ald. Edward Burke (14th) had a series of so-called burner cellphones, at least one of which was bought by an underling who paid cash for the device months before the federal raid on Burke's ward and City Hall offices, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Federal authorities only learned about that phone recently, sources familiar with the investigation said. Its existence raises the possibility that the alderman may have been alerted to, or was suspicious of, the investigation that led to the criminal case that was filed against him earlier this year.
A court-approved FBI wiretap of Burke's main cellphone recorded more than 62,000 calls the alderman made or received over several months, records have shown. That includes recordings that formed the basis of the Jan. 3 charge of attempted extortion against Burke for allegedly shaking down a Burger King franchise owner for legal business.
In one call, Burke was overheard plotting with indicted top aide Peter Andrews on how to play "hardball" by holding up permits and papering the Burger King with bogus citations until the franchise owner hired Burke's law firm, Klafter & Burke, to handle its property tax appeals.
But, what the feds did not know — at least until recently — was that Burke had at least one other pay-as-you-go "burner" phone that he asked the underling to buy for him last summer. There was no wiretap on that phone and no city record of the cash purchase, sources said.
Since Burke has been indicted in part on the basis of tapped phone calls on his acknowledged telephone lines, we can only speculate what kind of business he conducted on the burners.
The ongoing federal investigation of Chicago corruption could yield some more surprises, and possibly even start to unravel the corruption of the city government, dominated absolutely by Democrats for generations.
Photo credit: Kate Gardiner.
Hat tip: Peter von Buol.