By Jim Bowman
Officials knew the Convenience For You store was coming — in fact, the city gave it $105,000 in tax increment financing grants.
Ald. Deborah Graham, 29th, then pushed through a special ordinance lifting the moratorium, saying she wanted to help an African-American businesswoman with stellar credentials.
Actually, the new liquor store was bankrolled and launched by convicted drug dealer Frederick "Juicy" Sims, who has been tied to the Vice Lords street gang, a Tribune investigation found.
And what do you know? After the drug salesman gave her money!
Six months before Graham lifted the moratorium on new licenses and cleared the way for its opening, the store sent her a political contribution, records show.
She told the Tribune the money had no impact on her decision, and she said she was not aware of Sims' involvement in the business or his criminal background. "That's new information to me," she said. "If I had known then what I know now, I would not have supported them."
In February 2012, the store donated $1,950 to Graham's 29th Ward political fund. It was among the largest single donations she received that year.
Six months later, Graham reversed the long-standing moratorium on new liquor licenses in the 5300 block of West Madison Street.
And the pawnshop on North Avenue:
Last year she provided critical support to a special use zoning permit that enabled a fifth pawnshop to open in a half-mile stretch of North Avenue.
Angry residents filed a lawsuit disputing that permit for EZ Pawn at 6432 W. North Ave. They say the collection of pawnshops exploits the poor and is another visible reminder of the area's economic decay.
The local lobbying firm helping EZ Pawn is run by Victor Reyes, a former aide to Daley. It has donated $2,100 to Graham's ward organization to cover the expenses of community meetings on the issue, according to Graham.
Question is, how close is she to finding out who snookered her? Assuming she is giving it a college try.
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