Teamsters boss John Coli boasted ‘you can cut my fingers off, I wouldn’t talk’ years before dealing with the feds
A few days before Christmas 2016, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios President Alex Pissios asked Teamsters boss John T. Coli if he had let it slip that he had collected hundreds of thousands of dollars in secret payments from of the studio director.
“Give me a fucking break, now I’m worried about you,” Coli allegedly replied. “Are you crazy? There’s no one. Ever. My children. My wife. No one. Already.”
He added: “You can cut off my fingers, I won’t talk.”
It’s yet another made-for-Hollywood scene straight out of real Chicago corruption, according to an FBI affidavit recently obtained by the Chicago Sun-Times. And that happened more than two years before Coli – despite his tough talk – struck a deal with the feds and admitted he received $325,000 in cash payments from Cinespace between 2014 and 2017.
Recent headlines have focused on the former Ald. Danny Solis (25th) – described by a prosecutor last week as one of “Chicago’s most important collaborators in decades.” But the newly obtained affidavit sheds new light on a pair of informants who also played crucial roles in recent federal investigations — Coli and Pissios.
In fact, Pissios is said to have started providing information to law enforcement about Coli in June 2016. This was around the same time that Solis began his own cooperation, which led to the indictment of Ald. Edward M. Burke (14th) and former Illinois President Michael Madigan.
Coli pleaded guilty in an extortion case in July 2019. He then helped prosecutors secure a guilty plea for former Sen. Thomas Cullerton, who admitted in March to embezzling more than $240,000 from the Teamsters.
Coli has not been convicted, but the former union leader has a court hearing scheduled for next month. Cullerton’s sentencing is set for June 21.
The Sun-Times previously reported that Pissios had signed a ‘non-suit agreement’ that let him off the hook for not telling a bankruptcy judge about a $100,000 bank account he was using to support his family’s needs and pay his gambling debts. In addition to the case against Coli, Pissios has ties to at least two other major federal investigations.
When Pissios filed for bankruptcy in 2011 he owed millions of dollars to the Washington Federal Bank for Savings, the Bridgeport bank closed in December 2017. A fraud investigation there has so far led to charges against 15 people, including the former now convicted. Aldus. Patrick Daley Thompson (11th).
Pissios also owed money to Vincent “Uncle Mick” DelGiudice, who is set to begin an 18-month prison sentence next month for running what has been described as the largest criminal gambling ring ever prosecuted in federal court. from Chicago.
The newly obtained affidavit was originally filed before Coli’s arrest on April 4, 2017, when investigators expected Coli to collect another payment from Pissios. The studio head told the Feds he began making quarterly payments of $25,000 in 2014, taken from a petty cash account, according to the document.
Pissios told authorities the deal began years ago under his late uncle, Nick Mirkopoulos, the Sun-Times reported.
Pissios’ defense attorney declined to comment. Coli’s did not respond to messages. The affidavit does not name Pissios, but the details clarify his identity.
Federal authorities ended up watching and recording as Pissios paid Coli in July and October 2016 at the Greek Islands restaurant in the 200 block of South Halsted. Investigators saw Pissios and Coli leaving the restaurant on July 7, 2016, and they saw Pissios handing a FedEx envelope containing $25,000 to Coli outside its entrance, according to the affidavit.
“It’s for the contract,” Pissios reportedly told Coli, using “contract” as a code word.
During the second meeting, on October 4, 2016, Pissios allegedly told Coli that an executive had asked Pissios about petty cash withdrawals. This story was a ruse suggested by investigators, but Pissios asked Coli what to do, according to the affidavit.
Coli said, “Send him back.
“No matter how hard you try to put him in a corner, okay, he’s always going to be a problem,” Coli reportedly added. “Once someone is a problem like that, even if you think you can exploit them and put them in a corner, you’ll still have one eye open to watch them… He’s a rat.”
Pissios later allegedly put a FedEx envelope containing $15,000 in Coli’s vehicle. Afterwards, Coli complained during a phone call with Pissios that “some of the documents were missing in what I was supposed to look at today”. Feds say Coli was using coded language to report $10,000 missing.
Pissios ended up explaining that it was because of the problem with the executive.
Nine days later, Coli made the threat that would be disclosed in the Teamsters boss’ plea deal: that he would go on strike and shut down Cinespace if he didn’t get his money.
“We’ll stop him tomorrow,” Coli said. “We will close it in an hour. …I’ll f— have a picket line here, and it’ll all stop.
Coli added: “There are going to be once in a while unique things that are going to happen that you are going to have to deal with… you can’t have a fucking rat in a pile of wood. You can’t have a whistleblower here.
He recovered the missing $10,000 from Pissios on November 29, 2016, according to the affidavit.
The document says Pissios made another $25,000 payment to Coli at Pissios’ office on December 22, 2016 — the day Coli said, “You can cut my fingers off, I won’t talk.”
When Pissios handed the envelope to Coli that time, the feds say he explained because the payment was made using $50 bills, “looks like it’s a hundred grand.”
Coli reportedly replied, “I wish it was.”
Contributor: Tim Novak