Bruce Rauner Pat Quinn
CoStar Group Chicago Studio City's “business has declined precipitously, to the point that it is in danger of going out of business,” the complaint says.
A longtime Chicago TV-movie studio once called a front for organized crime has filed suit against the state of Illinois, alleging that the Quinn administration wrongfully directed productions to a rival, Cinespace Chicago Film Studios.
Two companies that go by the name Chicago Studio City allege that the state Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity used its control over Illinois tax credits to establish a “practice of steering Chicago-oriented (film) producers exclusively or primarily to Cinespace,” according to a complaint filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago. As a result, Chicago Studio City's “business has declined precipitously, to the point that it is in danger of going out of business,” the complaint says.
And the state conspired with Cinespace to direct producers to boycott Chicago Studio City, the complaint says.
The favoritism shown Cinespace was dictated by former Gov. Pat Quinn, according to the complaint, citing statements made by the former managing director of the Illinois Film Office. Quinn is not named in the lawsuit.
Cinespace, which also is not named in the lawsuit, also used "political and labor union influence" to win $17.3 million in state grants from the Quinn administration, including a $10 million grant in late 2014 that was questioned by the Rauner administration. The money was returned in March.
The state's actions violated federal anti-trust laws as well as the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution, the complaint says. The lawsuit was filed May 8 by two companies, Chicago Studio Rental and Chicago Studio Real Estate Holdings.
'VERY CLOSE FRIENDS'
In a report issued in 1986, the President's Commission on Organized Crime said Chicago Studio Rental was “known to Chicago law enforcement as a La Cosa Nostra front.”
John Crededio, who founded the company in 1979, was an “associate of LCN member Joseph Ferriola,” the report said. Ferriola, a reputed mob boss, died in 1989.
Chicago attorney Santo Volpe, who represents the companies, said, “Chicago Studio City was never a front for organized crime.” The “sole owner of Chicago Studio City is and also has been John Crededio,” he said, noting that the commission report was nearly 30 years old.
Ferriola and Crededio were “very close friends,” Volpe said. “I don't know how that translates into Chicago Studio City being an alleged front,” he added.
The state's wrongful conduct began in 2010, shortly after Cinespace was founded, the complaint alleges.
Chicago Studio City, located in the Austin neighborhood on the West Side, is a 100,000-square-foot facility. Cinespace, with about 1.45 million square feet, is about 5 miles east on the site of the former Ryerson Steel mill in North Lawndale.
The $10 million grant was awarded by the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity in the waning days of the Quinn administration. The money was given with the stated purpose of expanding the facility, but was handed over without any appraisals of the properties to be acquired or even contracts with the property owners.
Cinespace CEO Alex Pissios has defended the deal. A spokesman declines to comment on the allegations.
The Rauner administration declined to comment on the lawsuit.
Update, 3:55 p.m. — A spokesman for Quinn said the lawsuit is without merit.