Operation Silver Shovel

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The official seal of the FBI.

Operation Silver Shovel was a major United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) probe into political corruption in Chicago during the 1990s. By the end of the probe illegal activities from labor union corruption to drug trafficking, organized crime activity and elected city officials on the take were unearthed, and corruption convictions were handed out to 18 individuals.[1]


In the 1980s, the federal Operation Greylord investigation of the Cook County courts found almost 100 lawyers and judges who were eventually sent to jail, disbarred or suspended for illegal actions. However, when the individuals were heading off to jail, some lawyers and judges fixed cases. That produced Operation Gambat, which unearthed more corrupt officials and suspects.[2]

The operation[edit]

John Christopher was an FBI mole, an insider to the Chicago construction business and now a convicted felon and lifelong mob associate.[3] The FBI relied on Christopher to get audio or visual recordings of illegal transactions including bribes, money laundering and cocaine purchases. By 1995, Christopher had made over 1100 recordings. The informant gave cash payments or other bribes to city officials in exchange for help in obtaining work. These officials include city aldermen, city inspectors, project leaders, and others.[1] The bribes centered on city contracts for hauling construction debris; Christopher paid officials to allow him to dump debris in illegal areas. The bribes totaled $150,000 in the end, and the money laundering over $2.2 million.

Those indicted[edit]


  • Ambrosio Medrano (25th Ward alderman)[4]
  • Allan Streeter (17th Ward alderman)[5]
  • Jesse Evans (21st Ward alderman)[6]
  • Lawrence Bloom (5th Ward alderman)[7]
  • Virgil Jones (15th Ward alderman)
  • Percy Giles (37th Ward alderman)


  • 2 city inspectors
  • 10 others[1]

In other media[edit]

In September 2018, USA TODAY produced a podcast called "The City"[8] discussing elements of the case.


  1. ^ a b c Operation Silver Shovel. FBI Chicago.
  2. ^ "5 Indicted in Latest Inquiry Into Corruption in Chicago". nytimes.com. 20 December 1990.
  3. ^ "Silver Shovel's Mole Admits He's Covered With Dirt". chicagotribune.com.
  4. ^ "Probe Unearths Another Load Of Graft at Chicago City Hall". pqarchiver.com.
  5. ^ "An Admission Of Corruption Probably Isn't Chicago's Last". nytimes.com. 19 April 1996.
  6. ^ "Chicago Tribune : SILVER SHOVEL CORRUPTION PROBE WIDENS". forensic-intelligence.org.
  7. ^ "In Federal Indictment, Trust Is a Victim". nytimes.com. 10 July 1997.
  8. ^ "The City Podcast". www.thecitypodcast.com. Retrieved 2018-10-30.