ILLINOIS (IRN) — Gov. J.B. Pritzker, his wife First Lady M.K. Pritzker, and others are under federal criminal investigation for a dubious residential property tax appeal that critics highlighted in last year’s gubernatorial race.
WBEZ first reported the federal probe, citing information from a law-enforcement source familiar with the investigation.
Pritzker’s attorney denied any wrongdoing.
“Neither the Governor nor the First Lady have been contacted by law enforcement regarding the property tax appeal,” Attorney Marc Elias said in an email to Illinois News Network. “We are confident that any further review of the matter will show that the appropriate rules were followed.”
Pritzker, whose net worth is estimated at $3.2 billion, paid back the more than $330,000 he got in tax breaks for removing the toilets to have a mansion he bought deemed uninhabitable. He paid back the money in October, days after a leaked report from a Cook County watchdog surfaced. A Cook County inspector general report about the 2015 tax break called it a “scheme to defraud” taxpayers.
Political opponents pounced on news of the federal probe.
“Gov. Pritzker should immediately abandon his push for this massive jobs tax on middle-class families because he can’t expect people to pay more when he is reportedly under criminal investigation for gaming the system to pay less,” Ideas Illinois Chairman Greg Baise said.
Ideas Illinois has been opposing the governor’s proposed progressive income tax.
“The governor likes to call his push for more taxes ‘fair’ but it’s clear he knows nothing about fairness or equity – he needs to drop his push for this Jobs Tax that will only hurt middle-class families even further,” Baise said.
Illinois Republican Party Chairman Tim Schneider compared Pritzker’s decision to pay back the $331,000 to a bank robber returning stolen money after getting caught.
“Just because he gave the money back means nothing to me,” Schneider said in an interview. “He schemed to defraud the taxpayers of the county. He technically took money out the school system, to pay for our cops, to further burden other taxpayers because he didn’t pay his fair share.”
Schneider also said he was glad the investigation was being looked at by federal officials.
“I’ve seen silence on the part of the Cook County State’s Attorney,” Schneider said of Cook County State’s Attorney Kim Foxx. “I think she botched the Jussie Smollett case and we don’t even know if she’s investigating this on the Cook County level and I’m grateful that the feds have picked up the batton on this case.”
Pritzker could be asked to comment on the story when he is in front of reporters later this morning.
WBEZ reported that it wasn’t clear if any criminal charges were imminent; it also reported that “the scope and intensity of the federal investigation is not entirely clear.”