Illinois Sweepstakes Baron Gets 5 ½ Years for Bribing Lawmakers

Posted on: October 12, 2023, 10:44h. 

Last updated on: October 12, 2023, 11:12h.

The owner of an Illinois sweepstakes machine business was sentenced to five and a half years in prison Wednesday for bribing two state lawmakers and lying to the FBI.

James Weiss, Luis Arroyo, Terry Link
James Weiss, above, at the start of his corruption trial at the Dirksen Federal Building in June. He was found guilty of bribing State Rep. Luis Arroyo and State Sen. Terry Link. (Image: Chicago Sun-Times)

James T. Weiss denied greasing the palms of former State Rep. Luis Arroyo (D) and former State Senator Terry Link (D) in a bid to further his business. But a federal jury disagreed, convicting him in June of honest services fraud, wire fraud, and bribery.

Arroyo was sentenced to five years behind bars in 2022 for accepting $32.5K in bribes from Weiss via his lobbying firm, Spartacus 3, and for conspiring with Weiss to bribe Link.

Weiss wanted Arroyo to support legislation to legalize sweepstakes machines, which are unregulated and operate in a gray area of the law in Illinois.

Secret Recordings

Arroyo’s attempt to recruit Link into the scheme in June 2019 proved to be his undoing. Unbeknownst to him, Link had been nabbed by the FBI for tax evasion, and was prepared to secretly record the unfolding corruption in a bid to lessen his sentence.

In those recordings, Link is heard asking, “What’s in it for me?”

Arroyo responds: “I’m going to give you this here. This is … this is the jackpot,” handing his colleague a check for $2,500.

Arroyo then promised similar monthly payments if Link agreed to back the proposed legislation.

A star witness for the prosecution, Link was convicted of tax evasion in 2020 and is still awaiting sentencing.

Weiss was interviewed by the FBI in October 2019 and told them a pack of lies, according to prosecutors. These included that he knew and had spoken to someone named “Katherine Hunter.”

Federal agents had instructed Link to tell Arroyo to make the checks out in this name, but Hunter didn’t exist.

‘Walk of Shame’

Weiss’ lawyers argued that the bribery scheme had been spearheaded by Arroyo and that their client had merely naively gone along with it. But on Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Steven Seeger said he believed the scheme was Weiss’ idea.

Sentencing Weiss, Seeger bemoaned the corruption prevalent in Chicago politics.

Mr. Weiss, you added another star to Chicago’s walk of shame on the sidewalk of corruption,” he told the defendant, as reported by The Chicago Sun-Times. “You know what? It is an embarrassment. You helped solidify the city of Chicago as the capital of corruption, Mr. Weiss.”

He also rebuked Weiss for trying to bribe both the House and the Senate, according to The Chicago Tribune.

“It was bicameral corruption!” he complained.