Federal agents raided Lyons Village Hall and the private insurance office of Mayor Chris Getty on Thursday as part of a corruption investigation that involved two other neighboring Southwest suburbs.
Agents fanned out in Lyons, McCook and nearby Summit just days after federal authorities executed search warrants at the home and offices of state Sen. Martin Sandoval, whose district includes all three suburbs. The Sun-Times reported agents left the search of McCook’s village hall carrying out boxes of records and computers.
The raids come four months after a Better Government Association/Fox 32 investigation detailed how Getty, whose father was mayor before being sentenced to federal prison, has built a formidable political army, restored a family fiefdom and transformed the financially ailing government under his control into a stronghold of nepotism and cozy deals.
Agents conducted “authorized law enforcement” actions at the village halls in Lyons and McCook, according to an emailed statement from FBI Special Agent John W. Althen. Agents conducted “investigative activity” in Summit, he said.
“FBI-Chicago has no further comment on the matter,” Althen said.
According to a report in the Riverside-Brookfield Landmark, about a dozen agents were seen coming and going at the Getty Insurance Agency, 7710 W. Ogden Ave., which is operated by Getty and his father, Kenneth Getty Sr. Asked if he was with the FBI, one of the agents responded, “IRS criminal investigation.”
Neither Mayor Getty nor anyone at Lyons Village Hall returned telephone messages. McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski, who is also a Cook County commissioner, also did not return messages.
Getty was first elected mayor in 2009, taking over the office once held by his father, who was convicted in 1998 on 21 counts of mail fraud and money laundering in a bid-rigging scheme prosecutors said netted $179,000 for the elder Getty and two accomplices.
After taking over, the younger Getty put his brother and father, who was released from prison in 2004, on the village payroll. Chris Getty also pushed ordinances that were passed by the village board that increased Getty’s salary sevenfold. He also began expanding his political powerbase through fundraising. As of May, campaign funds he controls held more than $400,000.
The campaign funds he controls paid $169,000 in rent to Getty Insurance Agency, records show. The same business sold insurance to bars in Lyons the mayor oversaw in his capacity as the village liquor commissioner. Getty promised his insurance firm would stop selling insurance following news reports in 2011 about the conflict of interest.
The BGA also found a cozy deal involving Getty’s home, which records show he bought from a local developer and campaign contributor. The developer built the house on land the village sold to the developer at a loss, records show.
Real estate records show Getty bought the home from the developer and campaign supporter in 2016 for $291,000 without the home ever being placed on the market. Online market-value estimates placed the suggested retail price for the home at more than $400,000, the BGA reported.
Chris Getty said in an earlier interview that his purchase of the home was above board.
“It’s a small community, we have a new home builder that’s building homes in town,” Getty said. “I’m going to take advantage of that.”
The same developer was later the only bidder for other village properties auctioned off by the village at a loss.