A former top aide to a Chicago Public Schools CEO was sentenced to 18 months of probation Thursday for lying to the FBI about passing secret bid information on a $1 billion custodial contract to an operative working for one of the bidders.
Pedro Soto, 45, who resigned as then-CEO Janice Jackson’s chief of staff in 2020, admitted in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors that he repeatedly fed details about CPS’ internal bid deliberations to the operative in exchange for “various benefits.”
Soto’s sentence includes a $3,000 fine and 100 hours of community service at the Greater Chicago Food Depository.
In a statement to the court, a tearful Soto took several pauses to apologize to his wife and colleagues. “Trust was placed in me, and I failed that trust,” he said.
U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman said the sentence was meant as a “deterrent” for other offenders who hope they can get lighter sentences for similar offenses. The maximum sentence Soto originally faced was five years in custody.
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FBI agents interviewed Soto in his home in 2017. Authorities said he “solicited, was offered, promised or had received” benefits from a lobbyist he told “non-public information” to, and that was the reason for Soto’s receiving those benefits.
In his 19-page plea agreement, Soto admitted he’d had numerous discussions about private CPS deliberations with an operative in 2016 and 2017, including providing details of what a CPS evaluation committee was looking for in the bids.
Details revealed in Soto’s plea agreement show Company A — which eventually lost its bid for the contract — was GCA Services Group.
Soto resigned a week before the charges against him were made public. Jackson later sent a letter to the CPS staff saying her office took away Soto’s access to the district’s information systems and started an internal review as soon as she learned about the allegations.
The 2016 bid was part of a CPS plan to privatize building maintenance duties amid the district’s bleak financial condition.
Chicago Tribune’s Jason Meisner contributed.
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