When longtime state legislator Annazette Collins left office a decade ago, she walked through a revolving door that’s almost a tradition in Illinois and started a lobbying and consulting firm that helped major companies like AT&T and ComEd attract the attention of her former colleagues in the General Assembly. .
Like many politicians who follow the same well-worn path, Collins has been very successful. Federal prosecutors say his firm generated $90,000 in revenue in the first year, and that figure more than doubled by 2016.
In addition to paying himself a salary, Collins also used his company’s funds to cover personal expenses such as a mortgage, gym memberships, day care and his daughter’s private school tuition, according to prosecutors.
But when it came time to file federal income taxes, Collins’ company, Kourtnie Nicole Corp., suddenly looked much less lucrative, prosecutors said Tuesday in opening statements in Collins’ tax evasion trial.
According to prosecutors, Collins grossly underreported his income on tax returns between 2014 and 2018; this included an affidavit showing he earned as little as $11,500. He also did not file a personal return in 2016 and did not file a corporate tax return for his company in 2015 or 2016, even though the company was making six figures annually, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors allege Collins avoided paying a total of $99,800 in federal taxes over the five-year period in the indictment.
“(Collins) was a former Illinois state senator and representative who was trusted for years to make the laws of the state of Illinois,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Michelle Parthum said in her opening statement. “But when it came time to obey the law…she chose not to.”
Collins, 61, who represented Chicago’s West Side before losing the Democratic primary in 2012, is accused of three counts of filing a false individual income tax return, two counts of failure to file a corporate income tax return and one count of willful failure to file. filing an individual income tax return. The most serious charges carry a prison sentence of up to three years.
In her opening statement Tuesday, Collins’ attorney, Shay Allen, described her client not as a knowledgeable former lawmaker but as a regular wife, mother and colleague who is a “hard-working citizen of this country.”
He said Collins, like most people unaware of tax laws, relied on a pair of accounting professionals to file accurate returns and that any discrepancies or filing failures were at their disposal.
“The government expects you to believe that Ms. Collins knowingly stole hundreds of thousands of dollars from the government,” Allen said. “This is not some large, overarching fraud or scheme that Ms. Collins was a part of. “This was bad accounting.”
Pointing to the prosecutor’s desk piled high with binders full of documents, Allen said the government’s strategy was to “carry big cars full of stuff and say look at this paper, look at that document.” “But that won’t prove anything,” he said.
“This will prove they have very good copiers,” Allen said sarcastically. “This will prove that they don’t care much about the environment.”
Collins was indicted in 2021 amid a widening investigation into ComEd’s scheme to bribe then-House Speaker Michael Madigan.
The charges come as federal authorities close in on Madigan and indict a number of former lawmakers and lobbyists with ties to the then-powerful speaker and ComEd, including Collins’ former colleague, former state Rep. Edward Acevedo, and his two sons. Those convicted of tax-related offenses arising from lobbying activities.
Madigan himself was indicted a year later on racketeering charges, alleging that his elected office and political operation were a criminal enterprise that provided him and his associates with personal financial rewards, including bribery schemes orchestrated by ComEd and AT&T.
Also charged was Madigan’s longtime confidant, Michael McClain. Their trials are set for October.
Collins’ trial, meanwhile, will certainly be drier because the jury is not expected to hear any evidence related to the Madigan investigation. U.S. District Judge Jorge Alonso told the jury they could take the case by Friday.
In addition to his income as a lobbyist, Collins also failed to report nearly $100,000 he earned separately as a representative of American Income Life Insurance Co., according to prosecutors.
After discovering omitted income in 2016, the IRS assessed Collins for $26,000 in assessments and penalties. Prosecutors say the woman set up a payment plan but stopped making payments and now owes more than the original assessment.
Prosecutors allege Collins filed an amended affidavit claiming approximately 23,000 miles on work-related travel and $50,000 in alleged expenses for his work as an insurance agent; this includes about $8,000 for “work clothes,” $1,000 for “cleaning work clothes,” and $1,000. about $9,000 for “repairs and maintenance.”
Collins was fired “with cause” from his insurance job in September 2014, but the exact reason for his release was not made public.
Collins was a longtime state representative before being appointed to fill the vacancy left by the sudden resignation of State Senator Rickey Hendon in 2011.
Records show Collins signed up with ComEd as a contract lobbyist in 2014, a year after leaving office. The last year he signed up for civil service was in 2019, when news of the federal bribery investigation began to surface.
He receives an annual state pension of about $40,000, records show.