Former Illinois lawmaker gets a year in prison for cheating on her taxes

A federal judge sentenced former Illinois Sen. Annazette Collins to a year in prison Friday for cheating on her taxes in a case with ties to the same investigation that snared indicted former Illinois House Speaker Michael Madigan.

A jury in February convicted Collins of filing false individual tax returns for 2014 and 2015, failing to file one for 2016 and failing to file a corporate tax return for 2016.

“Her offenses were driven by greed,” U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso said. “She doesn’t want to hear that, but it’s absolutely true.”

Prosecutors say she ultimately dodged more than $150,000 in taxes, and they asked the judge to sentence Collins to roughly two years in prison. Collins’ attorney, Shay Allen, said she avoided closer to $30,000 in taxes and sought probation.

The feds argued that Collins, 62, refused to accept responsibility and has instead been “hiding behind vitriol and recrimination.” Even though the Chicago Democrat was indicted in 2021, prosecutors say Collins owes more than $68,000 in tax, interest and penalties for the years 2020 through 2022.

In a letter to the judge, Collins said she “let the voters down” and is “determined to never be in this situation again.”

“I am embarrassed and humiliated that my name has been tarnished and my legacy ruined,” Collins wrote.

Collins’ name has surfaced repeatedly at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse over the years, including in two 2023 corruption trials. Her own trial revealed that she was caught while working at an insurance company submitting policies for people who did not apply for them or “did not exist.”

Testimony Friday revealed that the alleged fraud steered more than $12,000 to Collins. None of it triggered criminal charges, though, and her attorney suggested Collins had been trying to help people without bank accounts secure life insurance.

Alonso called the conduct “audacious.”

Meanwhile, the case brought by prosecutors revolved around Collins’ work with her lobbying firm, Kourtnie Nicole Corp., following her years in the Legislature. That firm wound up collecting hefty sums from politically connected firms and utilities.

They included ComEd and AT&T Illinois, both of which were caught up in the Madigan investigation and faced criminal charges.

The jury learned that ComEd paid Collins’ firm $207,000, and AT&T Illinois paid it $95,343. A firm tied to former ComEd lobbyist John Hooker — among four political insiders convicted last year of scheming to bribe Madigan — paid Collins’ firm $11,000. And the Roosevelt Group lobbying firm tied to Victor Reyes — who figured prominently in Hooker’s trial — paid $2,500.

The jury also heard that Collins used money from her lobbying firm to make car, tuition and mortgage payments, and to fund a 2015 trip to Punta Cana, all while filing income tax returns that made it seem she earned paltry sums of as little as $11,000 a year after leaving public office.

During last year’s separate trial of Hooker and three others convicted of a nearly decade-long conspiracy to bribe Madigan, jurors saw a handwritten list of favored lobbyists that included the name “Annazette.”

U.S. Attorney’s office

The list appeared on stationery from the Talbott Hotel and was purportedly dubbed the “magic list” by Madigan confidant Michael McClain, who was among those convicted with Hooker.

Then, jurors in the separate trial of businessman James Weiss heard that Collins also worked as a lobbyist for Weiss’ company, Collage LLC. Weiss was convicted of bribing then-state Rep. Luis Arroyo and then-state Sen. Terry Link, and he is now serving a 66-month prison sentence. Arroyo also went to prison, but Link was cooperating with the FBI and got probation.

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