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The Ex Files

Over the years, many of our local public officials have capped off their careers with a stint in the pokey on corruption charges. Here’s how a few of them are faring today as ex-cons

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Percy Giles, 54
Then: Alderman, 37th Ward, 1986-99. A businessman and community organizer when he was elected, Giles was the first black alderman of his ward.
The rap: Convicted of racketeering, bribery, extortion, and filing false income tax returns in Operation Silver Shovel for accepting bribes from an FBI mole in exchange for, among other things, allowing the operation of an illegal dumpsite. Imprisoned at the Terre Haute (Indiana) Federal Correctional Complex from August 2000 to June 2003.
Now: Giles is a freelance consultant, providing financial and governmental expertise to churches and nonprofits. He also serves as the social minister at Temple of Faith in the Belmont Central neighborhood.
Avocation: Giles is one of the producers of a planned movie about a battle between a West Side family grocery store and the corrupt politician standing in the way of its expansion. The movie, tentatively titled Mel Bay, is based on a story by Don Temple, who was one of Giles’s precinct captains when he served as a Democratic committeeman. Giles wrote political speeches for the screenplay and is serving as a consultant on the project. The producers are optimistic about filming the movie on the West Side this summer. “We’re trying to put the final touch on the funding,” Giles says.
On his conviction: Giles is wary of discussing anything relating to his criminal case. “I hope you’re not going to take us back to the past,” he says.

Michael McNulty, 64
Then: Cook County Circuit Court judge, Traffic Court, 1977-87. In private practice before being appointed to the bench.
The rap: Pleaded guilty in Operation Greylord to three charges of tax evasion for not reporting bribes on his income taxes. Imprisoned at the Federal Prison Camp in Duluth from March 1988 to March 1990.
Now: McNulty is co-owner, with his brother William, of Gleneagles Country Club, in Lemont. The club has two 18-hole public championship courses. The McNulty family has owned the club since 1950. McNulty says he has a 12 handicap.
On being an ex-con: “Ninety-nine percent of all the people who know me now have no idea what happened to me. . . . Quite frankly, you’re the first person in 15 years to ask me about it.”
And it’s a boring topic: “It certainly wasn’t the end of the world for me,” McNulty says. “It’s not so much what others think; it’s how you perceive yourself.” About his life change, he says, “It’s kind of noninteresting. . . . You just change occupation.”

Miriam Santos, 50
Then: Chicago city treasurer, 1989-99 and April to October 2000. She was the first Hispanic woman to hold a citywide elective office.
The rap: Convicted in 1999 on five counts of mail fraud and one count of attempted extortion for demanding political contributions from companies that did business with the city treasurer’s office. Imprisoned at the Federal Correctional Institution in Pekin from October 1999 to January 2000. Her conviction was reversed on appeal in January 2000 and remanded to the district court for retrial. Pleaded guilty in October 2000 to one count of mail fraud for misusing city employees for campaigning. Sentenced to time served.
Now: Santos is practicing law again, after a two-year license suspension, and she owns a small real-estate company. Life in the private sector “has just been very peaceful,” she says. “Government is very, very stressful. . . . Anybody working in that environment is constantly under intense scrutiny. Having moved on from all of that has given me a good, balanced perspective on life.”
Pay it forward: At the request of lawyers she knows, Santos meets, pro bono, with people who have pleaded guilty or been convicted, “bridging that moment with the actual realities of going to prison.”
Support: “Life goes on. . . . Most people, I have found, are incredibly kind. Especially, people who followed my case are just wonderful. They don’t get everything that happened-that makes two of us.” Santos is pragmatic about her experience. “What’s important about this whole process, for anyone who’s living through it, is that bad things happen in life. But that shouldn’t stop you from having a full life and a good life.”

Martin Tuchow, 81
Then: Cook County commissioner, 1974-85. Democratic committeeman, 48th Ward, 1970-84. Served as a delegate to the Illinois Constitutional Convention in 1970, along with Richard M. Daley.
The rap: Convicted on charges of extortion for soliciting payments from contractors in exchange for city building permits. Imprisoned at Oxford from November 1985 to July 1988.
Now: “After I got screwed, I didn’t want to go back into politics, obviously, so I devoted my time to my family,” Tuchow says. “It was kind of nice-just retired from politics and retired from the law.” He and his wife now live full-time in Fort Lauderdale, where they moved four years ago. His two children and three grandchildren all live in Florida as well.
On the good old days: “Politics is not like it used to be. . . . We had control over things; we could help people. Now I don’t think they’re getting it done like we used to. . . . I just wanted to help people.”
Homesick: He says he and his wife of 38 years have a good life in Florida: “We have the beach and we have the pool. And we have dinner.” But the restaurants there aren’t like Chicago’s-"not like Gene & Georgetti,” he says. “I miss Chicago. The air of the town . . .it’s a part of me.”

Donald Swinarski, 71
Then: Alderman, 12th Ward, 1967-73; Illinois state senator, 1973-75. Took over the state senate seat of his father, Theodore Swinarski.
The rap: Pleaded guilty to tax evasion for misstating the source of money that prosecutors alleged was a bribe to influence a zoning decision when he was an alderman, although he was not convicted on any charge of bribery. Jailed from May to September 1975 at the Federal Prison Camp at Eglin, Florida.
Now: Swinarski retired about five years ago from a successful career as a marine contractor. As the owner of Alpha Marine, in south Florida, he oversaw several large projects, including construction of the Coast Guard station in Puerto Rico and the docks for the city of Hollywood, Florida. Knowing almost no one when he moved to Florida, Swinarski built his company and reputation from the ground up. “God has been very, very good to me,” he says.
Still busy: Swinarski owns property in the Fort Lauderdale area, including an office building that was destroyed last year by Hurricane Wilma; he is rebuilding and substantially improving it. He is also an avid scuba diver, donates time to the local high school, volunteers with the Lighthouse for the Blind, and is active in his church, St. John the Baptist. “I go to daily mass, and I really love God,” he says.
Good intentions: “All I know is when I get buried, I’m trying to get to heaven. I’m not sure I’d have done it in Chicago.”

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