Ex-Teamsters’ boss gets 19 months in Chicago extortion case

CHICAGO (AP) — A former Teamsters union boss who was once one of the most powerful labor leaders in Chicago was sentenced Wednesday to 19 months in federal prison for extorting $325,000 from the head of a film studio in the city.

The sentence comes more than three years after John Coli Sr. pleaded guilty to extortion, faced with secret recordings made by Cinespace Chicago Film Studios President Alex Pissios in which Coli could be heard threatening a union strike if Pissios didn’t pay him.

In one tape, Coli tells Pissios that he would have union workers walking a picket line that would shut the studio down “within an hour” if he didn’t continue making the secret payments.

Prosecutors agreed to dismiss several counts against the 63-year-old Coli in exchange for his guilty plea to receiving prohibited payments as a union official and making a false income tax return.

In exchange, Coli agreed to cooperate with federal investigators and that cooperation helped build an extortion case that landed former state Sen. Thomas Cullerton in prison this year. Cullerton pleaded guilty to embezzlement charges for improperly taking more than $248,000 from the Teamsters.

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