State Sen. Terry Link charged with falsifying 2016 income tax return 'substantially'

Veteran state Sen. Terry Link, a Lake County Democrat whose rise to power in Springfield was tainted by ties to a corruption scandal late last year, was charged Thursday with federal income tax evasion.

The 73-year-old Link - leader of the Democratic Party in Lake County - becomes the third Democratic senator to face criminal prosecution in a little over a year.

A single-page charging document filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago accuses Link of falsifying his income on his return for 2016.

Link reported his total income that year was $264,450 even though he knew his income "substantially exceeded that amount," the document says.

Link, of Indian Creek, couldn't be reached for comment.

Link has represented the 30th District, which includes much of central and eastern Lake County and a small portion of Cook County, since 1997.

Democratic state Sen. Melinda Bush of Grayslake was among the lawmakers calling for Link's resignation Thursday.

"The people of Illinois deserve nothing less than to know that their public officials are honest," Bush said.

Democratic state Rep. Daniel Didech of Buffalo Grove called the situation "disappointing" and also said Link should step aside.

"The documents filed in court today make it clear that Sen. Link made a serious mistake and (he) will now have to face the consequences for his actions," Didech said.

A spokesman for Illinois Senate President Don Harmon said Link withdrew from the General Assembly's legislative ethics commission Thursday. Link serves on several Senate committees as well.

The tax charge comes months after media reports identified Link as the unnamed senator who cooperated with the FBI and wore a wire to trap then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo of Chicago in a federal bribery case. Arroyo has pleaded not guilty.

Federal documents indicate the cooperator falsified income tax returns and helped the FBI in order to get leniency in that case. Link repeatedly denied he was the FBI source.

Link had served until this year as an assistant majority leader in the Senate. But Link was noticeably absent from leadership for the 2020 session.

Link has been tied to political scandal before.

In 2008, two campaign workers were charged with faking dozens of signatures on the senator's candidate petitions. Later that year, Link was formally accused of breaking state election law by not including payments to those campaign workers on financial disclosure paperwork.

He denied wrongdoing in the fake-signature case and threatened to sue the Republican Party leaders who brought the financial-disclosure complaint against him.

State Sen. Dan McConchie, a Hawthorn Woods Republican, said it's "beyond time" for Link to leave public service.

"Sen. Link has broken the public trust," McConchie said. "He has repeatedly lied to the public about his being a subject of a federal investigation while continuing to vote on behalf of his constituents."

With the 2020 general election less than three months away, Bush wondered if the tax charge against Link was politically timed.

"But that doesn't matter. Wrong is wrong," she said.

Link was elected to a 4-year Senate term in 2018 and isn't on the ballot this year.

The charge against Link was filed the same day Bush and other Democratic lawmakers proposed ethics reforms for the General Assembly. While insisting the timing was coincidental, Bush said the Link case "magnifies the point that this needs to be done."

"It's time for legislators to stand up and be heard and say we're not going to stop until we pass real, meaningful ethics reform," Bush said.

Link was reelected chairman of the Lake County Democratic organization in April. He's held the post since 1992.

The group's vice chair, former state Rep. Lauren Beth Gash, couldn't be reached for comment Thursday evening.

Two other Democratic state senators have been on the federal court docket in the last year.

Sen. Tom Cullerton of Villa Park was indicted In August 2019 on embezzlement charges stemming from an investigation into a Chicago-area labor union. He pleaded not guilty and still holds office.

Former Sen. Martin Sandoval of Chicago was charged with bribery and tax fraud in January in a case involving a company that installs red-light cameras. He pleaded guilty, resigned from the Senate and agreed to cooperate in an ongoing investigation.

• Capitol News Illinois contributed to this report.

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