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Chicago FBI boss retiring after nearly 3 years at the helm

The boss of the Chicago FBI is set to retire later this month after nearly three years at the helm of the state’s biggest recent political corruption investigations, including the bombshell racketeering case filed against ex-House Speaker Michael Madigan.

Emmerson Buie Jr., who took over as special agent in charge of the FBI’s Chicago field office in October 2019, will step down Aug. 22, ending a more than 30-year career with the bureau, an FBI spokeswoman said. Deputy Special Agent in Charge Eric Shiffman will take over on in interim basis until permanent replacement is named.

In a written statement, Buie, 57, who was born and raised in Chicago, said he was “truly humbled to have had the opportunity to serve the American public.”

“It has always been my purpose to protect those who could not protect themselves, and I can think of no better place or way to end my FBI career than representing my family and friends who have supported me throughout my career, and the citizens of the city ​​I grew up in, as one of ‘Chicago’s Very Own,’ ” he said.

Buie began his tenure in the bureau’s fourth-largest field office in October 2019, just as many of the political corruption investigations that had been simmering in the background were starting to make a big public splash.

Just days into his tenure, Buie oversaw the arrest of state Rep. Luis Arroyo on bribery charges connected to the sweepstakes gaming industry — a case that involved then-state Sen. Terry Link wearing a hidden wire against his colleague. Arroyo pleaded guilty and was sentenced in May to nearly five years in prison. Link pleaded guilty to unrelated tax charges and is awaiting sentencing.

FBI agents had also recently raided state Sen. Martin Sandoval’s office in Springfield and village halls in the west suburbs and also seized computers and files from the office of Ald. Carrie Austin.

Sandoval pleaded guilty to bribery conspiracy involving a red-light camera company executive and was cooperating with investigators when he died in December 2020 of COVID-19 complications. Austin is awaiting trial.

Other FBI investigations taken down in Buie’s three years here include ex-Ald. Patrick Daley Thompson, who was convicted of lying to federal banking regulators and tax evasion, and the mayors of suburban McCook, Crestwood, and Oakbrook Terrace, who were all caught on government wires as part of the same overarching bribery investigation.

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But the biggest domino to fall during Buie’s tenure came in March, when Madigan and his longtime confidant, Michael McClain, were indicted as part of a sprawling investigation into lobbying practices by utility giant ComEd. Both Madigan and McClain have pleaded not guilty.

When he began his tenure, Buie told the Tribune that going after political crooks had long been a calling for him.

“I take corruption very seriously,” Buie said in an interview then. “The FBI as well as myself are very aggressive when it comes to pursuing corruption. … My stance is the American public has a right to be assured that their public officials and law enforcement officials are working for them, not against them.”

A Western Illinois University graduate and an Army veteran, Buie was the first African American to become special agent in charge of the Chicago FBI — a special point of pride for the native of the Englewood neighborhood.

He also was the first Chicago-raised FBI boss here in at least the past two decades. He took over from Jeffrey Sallet, a native Bostonian who was reassigned to an executive post at the FBI’s Washington headquarters in 2019. Before Sallet, the FBI’s top Chicago position was occupied by appointees hailing from Minnesota, Indiana, Virginia, Michigan and Washington state.

Before taking over in Chicago, Buie’s FBI career included stops in Texas, Colorado, downstate Illinois, Washington and even London, where he served as a legal attache for the FBI in several international counterterrorism and anti-organized crime agencies.

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