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Union Leader, Rahm Ally Indicted For Extorting $100K From Business: Feds

By Heather Cherone | July 12, 2017 2:40pm | Updated on July 12, 2017 3:32pm
 John Coli, 57,  demanded $100,000 from a local business for protection, prosecutors said.
John Coli, 57, demanded $100,000 from a local business for protection, prosecutors said.
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Teamsters Joint Council 25

CHICAGO — The politically powerful president of a Teamsters union local was charged Wednesday with threatening a local business with a strike unless he was paid $100,000 a year.

John Coli, 57, who was one of the first labor leaders to back Rahm Emanuel in 2010 when Emanuel announced he would run for mayor of Chicago, was charged with one count of attempted extortion and five counts of demanding and accepting prohibited payment as a union official, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office for the Northern District of Illinois.

Coli has not yet been arraigned, and could not immediately be reached for comment. If convicted on all charges, Coli could face 45 years in prison.

A spokesman for Emanuel declined to comment on Coli's indictment.

In June 2016, Coli was appointed by Gov. Bruce Rauner — an Emanuel foe — to the Illinois Labor Advisory Board, even though the labor leader endorsed former Gov. Pat Quinn.

The 11-page indictment alleges that the criminal acts occurred while Coli served as president of Teamsters Joint Council 25, which represents more than 100,000 workers in the Chicago area and northwest Indiana.

The indictment alleges that Coli accepted a $25,000 cash payment on July 7, 2016; two cash payments totaling $25,000 on Oct. 4, 2016, and Nov. 29, 2016; and $25,000 cash payments on Dec. 22, 2016, and April 4, 2017. The company involved was not identified by federal officials but the Sun-Times reported that it was Cinespace Film Studios in North Lawndale.

Coli's retirement from the Teamsters after 46 years was announced Wednesday by Local 727, where he will be replaced as president of Joint Council 25 by Becky Strzechowski, who was a trustee.

“It is with tremendous reflection and a big heart that I announce my retirement from the Teamsters-the greatest union in the world of which I have been so proud to be a member every day of my life,” Coli said.

In addition, Coli recently retired as international vice president of the central region of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters, federal officials said.

His son, John Coli Jr., is president of the Teamsters Local 727.

Local 727 represents bus drivers, trade show workers, pharmacists, zookeepers, funeral directors and parking industry workers.