Trump pardons Casey Urlacher, suburban mayor and brother of Bears Hall of Famer Brian Urlacher

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Bill Ruthhart, Chicago Tribune
·6 min read
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Amid a slew of pardons in his final hours at the White House, President Donald Trump pardoned Casey Urlacher, a suburban mayor and the brother of Bears Hall of Fame linebacker Brian Urlacher.

Casey Urlacher, 41, faced federal charges alleging he acted as a recruiter and bagman for a sports gambling ring that raked in millions of dollars from hundreds of Chicago-area bettors. Urlacher, who is the mayor of the tiny Lake County town of Mettawa, pleaded not guilty to the charges last March.

A little more than a week after his brother was in a packed federal courtroom entering his not guilty plea, his famous brother paid a visit to Trump at the White House.

“This was a once in a lifetime experience!” Brian Urlacher posted on Instagram along with a photo of his Bears jersey laid out on the Resolute Desk in front of a smiling Trump. “Got to hang in the Oval Office with President Trump and my family. He could not have been any nicer or accommodating to all of us.”

Casey Urlacher was charged last February with conspiracy and running an illegal gambling business. He is accused of acting as an agent for the gambling ring, recruiting bettors in exchange for a cut of their eventual losses.

Prosecutors said in court that Urlacher, who was released on a recognizance bond, faced up to 10 years in prison if convicted of both counts.

“President Trump granted a full pardon to Casey Urlacher,” the White House said in a statement released early Wednesday morning. “This pardon is supported by his friends and family, and countless members of his community.

“Mr. Urlacher has been charged with conspiracy to engage in illegal gambling. Throughout his life, Mr. Urlacher has been committed to public service and has consistently given back to his community,” the statement continued. “Currently, Mr. Urlacher serves as the unpaid Mayor of Mettawa, Illinois. He is a devoted husband to his wife and a loving father to his 17-month old daughter.”

It is highly unusual for presidents to pardon individuals before they are convicted of a crime. Trump took the same step in pardoning political ally Steve Bannon, who faced federal fraud charges for duping thousands of investors out of their money.

Urlacher was among more than 140 individuals who received an 11th hour pardon from Trump on the final day of his presidency, including celebrity rappers, family allies and former members of Congress.

Records show Brian Urlacher has been a political supporter of the president — at least since his brother was slapped with a federal indictment. The retired football star has contributed a total of $6,125 to Trump’s campaign accounts, with the first donation coming four days after his brother was charged.

The indictment against Casey Urlacher alleged he played a role in a gambling ring run by Vincent Delgiudice, an Orland Park businessman who goes by “Uncle Mick.”

Delgiudice allegedly paid a Costa Rica-based sportsbook a service fee to use its online platform and recruited gamblers to place wagers on his website.

To expand the operation, Delgiudice hired people to act as agents and enlist new gamblers. The agents — including Urlacher — worked with Delgiudice to collect cash and pay out winnings, and were paid a commission based on a percentage of the gamblers’ losses. He covered his tracks by using encrypted messages to communicate with representatives of the sportsbook, the indictment alleged.

The charges do not state how many gamblers in all took part in the illegal ring, but in early 2019, Delgiudice told one of his agents by phone that he had 1,006 customers and had won $100,000.

When agents searched Delgiudice’s home in April 2019, they seized nearly $1.1 million in cash and nearly a half-million dollars’ worth of silver bars, gold coins and jewelry, the indictment stated. The government is seeking forfeiture of $8 million.

Delgiudice pleaded not guilty. His 84-year-old father also was charged in the indictment for allegedly helping his son pay out winnings.

Also acting as an agent was Nicholas Stella, 42, a veteran Chicago police officer, according to the indictment. Police Department records show Stella was stripped of his police powers and assigned to desk duty in May 2019.

Among other “agents” charged were Matthew Knight, of Mokena, who is also known as “Sweaters”; Justin Hines, of Algonquin; Todd Blanken, of Cary; Matthew Namoff, of Midlothian; Vasilios Prassas, 37, of Chicago; and Keith Benson, 49, of Lombard.

None of them were pardoned by Trump.

Casey Urlacher moved with his famous older brother to Lake Bluff in 2000, shortly after Brian Urlacher signed with the Bears. He attended Lake Forest College and was invited to the Bears training camp as a fullback in 2003 and signed to a three-year contract, but he never made the team’s regular season roster.

He later had a brief career with the Arena Football League — including a stint with the Chicago Rush as a running back — before entering politics.

Urlacher was elected mayor of Mettawa — population 547 — in 2013 and reelected four years later. He said at a village meeting last March that he intended to stay on as mayor while he fights the charges.

“I’ll get my personal issues out of the way,” he told town officials at the meeting, according to a report in the Daily Herald.

After he was charged, Urlacher resigned from his $26,000-a-year position on the Illinois Civil Service Commission, which he was appointed to by then-Gov. Pat Quinn in 2013.

Brian Urlacher has been the subject of some social media controversy last year for views he expressed after the police shooting of Jacob Blake in Kenosha and the subsequent civil unrest.

When members of the Milwaukee Bucks and other NBA players declined to play after Floyd’s shooting, Urlacher criticized the decision on Instagram.

“Brett Favre played the MNF game the day his dad died, threw 4 TDs in the first half, and was a legend for playing in the face of adversity,” Urlacher posted. “NBA players boycott the playoffs because a dude reaching for a knife, wanted on a felony sexual assault warrant, was shot by police.”

Investigators say Blake had a knife in his hand moments before being shot by an officer seven times in the back as he leaned into an SUV. The shooting, which took place with his children in the vehicle, left Blake paralyzed. Kenosha County prosecutors earlier this month declined to press charges against Officer Rusten Sheskey.

Urlacher also liked an Instagram meme that called for freedom for Kyle Rittenhouse, an 18-year-old who faces murder charges for the alleged shooting death of two protesters in Kenosha. The Bears distanced themselves from their former star’s posts.

“The social media posts in no way reflect the values or opinions of the Chicago Bears organization,” the team said in a statement.

bruthhart@chicagotribune.com

Twitter @BillRuthhart