7Dec/110

Ode to Poor Blago

Illinois Pay-to-Play Editorial

 

A fond ado we’ll bid to you, poor Blago.

For, alas, we knew you well.

 

And of your flair in the governor’s chair,

The people here, with seldom a tear,

Will long remember.

 

Your flowing mane, your short-cut name,

How you quoted Kipling under pressure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

You rang in some a thrilling bell,

For you were a Man of the People.

 

The simple people.

The union people.

The people who came to you on bended knee for favors.

And state contracts.

 

You only did what other pols have done, and do still.

You simply asked for your fair share,

From the constant revolving till.

 

A mere pull of your rake

Through the spoils of the take.

 

Not for yourself, no, not for you.

But for the common ones.

The suffering ones.

The sick and aging ones.

The Little People.

 

But, alas, poor Blago, you lacked discretion.

Too boldly did you claim your share.

Too brashly did you drag your rake.

And with too much brass you grabbed your take.

 

And so, you did, poor Blago, make yourself contagious

With them who would otherwise a blind eye have turned,

Had you not been so audacious.

 

For in a state where other pols make secret hay,

Your crimes were in the light of day. (And on tape.)

As so yet it continues on past today,

With Illinois Pay-to-Play.

 

Yet, all would have been well with you, poor Blago,

Had you not flown too close to the Flame,

And burned your wings in the white heat of Him,

They chose past you for a Greater Fame.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A bigger friend of Tony.

So, a fond ado we’ll bid to you, poor Blago.

Be wise in the showers where you will go.

For some are eager there to do to you,

What you did to the People.

25Nov/110

Chicago Tribune Writes “Top Blagojevich adviser Tony Rezko gets 10½ years”

Introducing Annabel Kent, Chicago Media Critic

Tribune reporter Annie Sweeney wrote a nearly insightful piece on a former Governor Blagojevich “advisor” identified in the body of her piece as Antoin Rezko, and in the title as Tony Rezko.  Who is Annie writing about?

Is this the same Tony Rezko who served with Allison Davis and Valerie Jarrett as Barack Obama’s senate election campaign finance committee?  She doesn’t mention that.

Is this the same Tony Rezko who Obama said he only occasionally shared lunch with, but who federal mole Bernard Barton, AKA John Thomas, reported to have witnessed frequently meeting at Rezko’s office where Barton-Thomas worked while wired. She doesn’t mention Obama.

Is this the same Tony Rezko who helped Obama and Michelle buy that Hyde Park mansion near his home in Chicago, helped him expand his yard, helped him…well, you know all that.  She skips all that, too.

Or, was this the former governor’s “advisor” – it’s such a dignified word, “advisor” – who gave former Governor Blagojevich prescient recommendations on competent and knowledgeable persons he, Blago, should appoint to key state committees in order to best serve the tax-payers of Illinois?

Is this Tony Rezko the “advisor” who whispered in Blago’s ear giving timely and clever political advice – cause that’s what “advisors” do, you know – to Illinois’ Chief Executive Officer so that he might act, in all ways and in all things, on behalf of the greater interests of the people of the Land of Lincoln?

The Governor’s Advisor...

 

…and not Blago’s senior extortionist bag man and close friend of the President.

It’s just hard to tell from Ms. Sweeney’s article who she’s writing about.

She wrote, “Rezko opted to enter jail after his June 2008 conviction, but his sentencing was delayed because of the possibility that federal prosecutors would call him as a witness at other key trials connected to the probe of the Blagojevich administration, including the former governor's retrial over the summer.”

Does Ms. Sweeney really believe that this Tony Rezko was ever going to be called as a witness at “other key Blago trials” where, on cross examination, he might have been forced to elaborate on his relationship with Barack Obama and commit perjury when he lied?  Did Annie just move to Chicago from Bulgaria?

For whom does Ms. Sweeney work?  Oh, that’s right – the Chicago Tribune.  A newspaper that’s been covering-up for Chicago’s favorite son for a long time now.

Now we get it.

She also wrote, ”Prosecutors, in a filing Monday, also described how Rezko withheld information from them, undercutting their investigation.”

Sure.  We get that, too.

What’s “shill” in Bulgarian?

23Nov/110

Dead Meat Walks the Plank December 6th

Jontel Kassidy, Senior Capital Correspondent

Blago is next to be sentenced, on December 6.  Conventional wisdom among the Crook County media pundits is that, since Tony Rezko drew 10½ years, Dead Meat is facing the realistic prospect of even more time.

The prosecution said that Tony was “uncooperative”; even though he volunteered to go to jail before he was sentenced.  (Who gave him that advice?)  If the intent was to rack up goodwill points at his sentencing, it didn’t work.  All it did was give him a preview of the future – at least until his friend Barack springs him with a commutation of his sentence.  (Is Vegas posting odds on that yet?)

But for Dead Meat, there’s no commutation, no pardon, no escape on the horizon coming from the White House.  Blago and Barack didn’t have that special, symbiotic relationship built, literally, on bags of cash that once linked Tony and Barack at the wallet.

So what’s Dead Meat to do to mitigate the depth of the water he’s to fall into when he walks the plank on December 6th? How might he, unlike Tony, “cooperate?”

He can’t relate details about the former Chicago corruption days of the POTUS, and, thereby, shave off jail time. The U.S. Attorney’s Office has done a stalwart job of protecting Chicago’s favorite son through the whole sordid affair that’s whirled around Tony and Rod.  Blago starts talking about Chicago Obama and he might get life without parole!

He can’t squeal on Attorney General Eric Holder’s association, once upon another time, with the effort to endorse a mobbed-up casino in Rosemont. Holder is Patrick Fitzgerald’s boss. How would that work? – Blago fessing up that Holder’s law firm was to get $300 g’s for certifying that the people behind the casino were all former Eagle Scouts and fine, church-goin folks, when he knew otherwise. No joy there for Blago.

So does he tell on the current Governor’s Chief of Staff for what he might have done as Tony’s Chief Financial Officer? Naw, that’d be small potatoes. Besides, who cares? He has some dirt on the current Gov himself? Yawn.

Or, maybe he details how Rezko’s close business associates Dan Frawley and Dan Mahru participated in…oh, serial bad behaviors of interest?  Nope. You don’t use a big fish to catch smaller ones.

Okay, suppose Blago does a core dump on Illinois corruption, names names, give dates, outlines plots and pinpoints where the bones are buried, metaphorically speaking, of course.

Maybe he exposes details of the nefarious world of a longtime, high-profile, corrupt, senior alderman.  Or, tell true tales about the Daley’s.  Rahmbo might like that, but it wouldn’t help Blago.

So just what information, what “cooperation”, does Blago have to offer now that he knows how deep the water may be when he walks off the plank on December 6th?

Is there even anything he can tell that will make the outcome any less catastrophic for him?  Or, would his prosecutors just as soon he say nothing and vanish quietly into the federal penal system? Sort of like Norman Hsu did – remember him? You probably don’t, and that may be just what the U.S. Attorney’s office is hoping for. That Dead Meat disappears down the federal rabbit hole and in, say, 15 years, no one notices when he walks out with short gray hair, his children grown, Patty remarried, a self-defeated man. Not a pretty picture.

Not looking good for Dead Meat.

23Nov/110

Rezko Sentenced to Await Obama’s Pardon

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

WOW!  Today Federal U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve sentenced Tony Rezko to 10½ years in prison!  That can’t be good news for Blago. He’s next.

This reporter is, frankly, surprised – astonished is a better word – that St. Eve came down so hard on Tony.  (But we don’t back off the analysis of the Sun Times article yesterday wherein a case was implicitly made by the reporter for giving him time served.)

Does this mean that Tony will do at least the federally mandated 85% of his time before being a free man again? Maybe. Maybe not.

Presidential Candidate Senator Barack Obama was considerably less than forthcoming and truthful when describing his relationship with Tony before the ’08 election.  In short, he lied. Illinois Pay-to-Play will elaborate on that assertion in the weeks ahead.

We expected that, today, Tony might be a free man, sentenced to time served. Or, that his sentencing might be postponed yet again. We were wrong. But that won’t stop us from sticking out collective neck again.

Rezko expects to be pardoned by his friend Obama. Whether Obama wins or losses (or doesn’t even run in) the next election, he will pardon his friend and financial benefactor Tony after the ’12 election.  Tony is expecting that, given two eyewitness accounts known to us wherein Tony said he expects Obama to pardon him.

We hope we’re wrong about that prediction, too. Very wrong. Tony did the crime – he should do all  the time.  And more.

It’s time that will tell.

21Nov/110

The Sun Times Asks “How much time will Tony Rezko serve?”

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

Natasha Korecki, Federal Courts Reporter for the Sun Times, asked that question in a recent article.

Tony is scheduled, once again, to be sentenced Tuesday, November 22, in federal court. We’re holding our collective breath.

The rest of Natasha’s piece is designed to prepare us for a sentence of “time served.”  Here’s what we’re told:

  • The U.S. Attorney, Patrick “Elliott Ness” Fitzgerald, wants Tony to serve 11-15 years for failing to cooperate. (That’s because Patrick’s what John Kass of the Tribune calls, the Exterminator of criminals.)
  • Tony’s lawyer says that Tony’s “talks with the government” help encourage others, like Lon Monk, to testify against Blago.
  • A defense attorney says that the judge could credit Tony for his cooperation (What cooperation?) even though he wasn’t called to testify against Blago.
  • The judge doesn’t have to follow the prosecution’s sentencing recommendation. (Oh, oh. Brace for impact.)
  • Meanwhile, “Rezko served about nine months in the most restrictive jail conditions at the downtown Metropolitan Correctional Center — a Special Housing Unit called the ‘SHU,’ where ‘high-risk’ inmates, including accused terrorists and currently a suspected high-ranking leader of a violent Mexican drug cartel, are held. High-profile defendants or those cooperating with prosecutors are also held there.”  (So now the Sun Times knows where Tony’s been. Who leaked this time? Chase again?)
  • Unidentified “legal observers” say the judge could credit Tony for having done jail time in harsh conditions. (Are you feeling set-up yet?)
  • A former Chief of Staff of former Governor, now inmate, George Ryan says that the SHU “should not be shrugged off.”  (Are you feeling Tony’s pain yet?)
  • Tony also spent time in a Wisconsin county jail (Really?) “…where he cannot go outdoors and has not had any physical contact with family.”  (OMG, such an ordeal for poor Tony!)

This article reads like the storyline for a sequel to A Christmas Carol with Tony playing a grown-up Tiny Tim.  Patrick Fitzgerald is the legalistic Scrooge. The kindly Judge St. Eve releases Tony from the clutches of debtor’ prison and he limps into the sunset – a free man.

Sort of like…John Thomas. Another faux witness to corruption in Crook County, never called to testify.

Get ready for time served. Unless there’s another sentencing postponement. And what a shock that’d be!

16Oct/110

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? Series Summary (Part 10)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

The first sentence in Part 1 of this series asked this:

“Is the United States Attorney for the Northeastern District of Illinois an intrepid crime fighter, as he’s typically portrayed by most of the Chicago and national media? Or, is the legend of a modern day Untouchable Elliott Ness largely a media-created myth?”

What followed made a case that the Untouchable image of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald is largely a myth.

As to circumstantial evidence:

“It means that existence of principal facts is only inferred from circumstances. Twin City Fire Ins. Co. v. Lonas, 225 Ky. 717, 75 S W.2d 348, 350. 

When the existence of the principal fact is deduced from evidentiary by a process of probably reasoning, the evidence and proof as said to be presumptive. Best, Pres. 246; Id. 12. All presumptive evidence is circumstantial because necessarily derived from or made up of circumstances, but all circumstantial evidence is not presumptive. Burrill.

The proof of various facts or circumstances which usually attend the main fact in dispute, and therefore tend to prove its existence, or to sustain, by their consistency, the hypothesis claimed.  Or as otherwise defined, it consists in reasoning from facts which are known or proved to establish such as are conjectured to exist.”  (p. 309, Black’s Law Dictionary, Fourth Edition)

So, what are the facts and circumstances that we know that collectively tend to prove, or sustain by their consistency, the existence of the hypothesis that Patrick Fitzgerald is a politically-driven, not jurisprudence-driven, prosecutor whose image as an intrepid, unbiased crime fighter is a media-created fabrication?

Here are a few headlines from Parts 1-9:

Fitzgerald acknowledged that someone leaked information to the Chicago Tribune, via a reporter for the Chicago Tribune, while the reporter, John Chase, sat mute in the front row of the news conference where the arrest of Blago was described as an effort to stop a crime spree. (Chase has told a source known to this writer that he would not identify who leaked him the information on First Amendment grounds.)

In fact, (1) Blago’s crime spree had, with Fitzgerald’s knowledge, been going on for several years.  (2) Chase has not been called to account for tipping off Blago that his conversations were being recorded by the feds. (3) Eric Holder’s Department of Selective Justice has taken no steps – like that taken by Fitzgerald when he jailed Judith Miller of the New York Times in the Valerie Plame Case – to force Chase to reveal the source of the leak. And, (4) Fitz’s demeanor in discussing the leak in a press conference can be accurately described as disinterested. 

The urgency to arrest Blago was manufactured out of whole cloth. The leak had to originate out of the DoJ. And, the closest outlet for the DoJ to the Chicago Tribune is Fitzgerald’s office. You connect the dots.

In retrospect, we know now that Richard Armitage was the confessed leaker in the Valerie Plame Case.  We also know that Fitzgerald knew of Armitage’s confession before undertaking a long and costly investigation that convicted a key staff member of Vice President Cheney of a crime not connected to the Plame leak. And, that this media event, upon which the foundation of the Untouchable myth was built by the main stream media, was politically-driven. 

The Plame “investigation” boiled down to a surrogate WWF-like wrestling match between two Big Beltway Boys: Armitage representing Powell – Libby for Cheney. With Fitzgerald as the biased referee.  And, it will be so chronicled by unbiased historians in the future.

The arrest of Blago was timed, not to stop a crime spree, or the selling of a Senate seat – since the latter notion is built on the myth that, once Blago got paid for appointing someone, the act was immediate and irrevocable.  The arrest was timed to save Congressmen Jesse Jackson, Jr., from criminal prosecution for bribing a governor in order to receive a Senate appointment. Connect the dots. It was about saving J.J., Junior.

The Mole was planted by the DoJ to contribute to building a case against Tony Rezko in order to (a) help scuttle Blago – who has his own self-destructive gene – and, (b)protect the image of Barack Obama as a Chicago politician untarnished by association with the likes of a Tony Rezko. 

Getting Tony out of the way was necessary to hiding his relationship to Barack. And, keeping him sequestered at an undisclosed location was necessary to remove him from access to the media. But perhaps even more importantly, Rezko was never called as a witness in either Blago trial, yet he was among Dead Meat’s leading extortionists.  All part of concealing Barack Obama’s involvement in Illinois Play to Play. 

By its general passivity, the Chicago media have been complicit in hiding of Rezko. After all, Obama was their guy, too.

In the end, Tony will be sentenced to time voluntarily served – wherever that was – and eventually be pardoned by his longtime friend and financial benefactor, Barack.  (Remember, Eric Holder facilitated the pardoning of Marc Rich.)

The Mole was a big winner in all this. He never appeared in court to testify against Rezko, since his appearance might have led to testimony as to Rezko’s long financial support of the young Illinois, and then U.S., Senator. The Mole is on record as having witnessed the two together in a much closer relationship than Obama has ever admitted.  For his work, the Mole made out like a bandit. New name. New career. New wealth. In a New Town.

In a second Obama administration, Fitzgerald will be rewarded by being appointed the next FBI Director. Or, maybe even soon, he’ll get Holder’s job, if Eric’s connections to Fast & Furious sink him.

This is a circumstantial case.  But remember Fitz’s words:  “I think people need to understand we won't be afraid to take strong circumstantial cases into court." 

To conclude: Three public entities head the list of those responsible for putting Barack Obama in the White House.

  1. The Chicago Tribune, the Sun Times, and the entire Chicago TV media,, for selectively withholding information concerning Obama’s past in Chicago.
  2. Former Tribune political reporter and consultant to Blago during his Congressional campaigns – David Axelrod.  And, the…
  3. U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, Patrick J. Fitzgerald.

This story is far from over.

13Oct/110

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? The Exterminator’s Catch & Release Program (Part 9)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

Is the result of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s ten-year, crime-fighting crusade in Illinois the near extermination of corruption?  Or, has it been more about trapping a few big bugs and spraying a catch-and-release treatment on them?

In a March 17, 2011 Chicago Tribune article by John Kass entitled “If Fitzgerald goes to Washington, will political cockroaches like Blagojevich multiply?” Kass bemoans the future of Chicago if Patrick Fitzgerald is eventually appointed Director of the FBI.  Kass wrote, “If the best exterminator leaves town, what will happen to all those political cockroaches?” (Answer: Dear John, They’ll continue as if nothing’s changed, cause nothing has.)

Kass is among the Chicago media types who've succumbed to Fitz idolization driven, in part, by the eventual conviction of Dead Meat at the hands of the Exterminator.  And so Fitz stands watch alone today, in his hands-on-hips-Superman-stance, along that thin line that separates law-and-order from Illinois’ Pay-to-Play.

So, OMG! If the Exterminator moves to Washington, D.C., what will stop the proliferation of other political cockroaches, like Dead Meat? Kass asks. (It’s hard to tell when Kass is being serious versus flippant, since his writing style aims to tease, not confront. It’s both a literary niche, and a survival technique. If you really don’t want to, you don’t have to take him seriously.)

If you were reading Kass’ piece on Mars, you’d think the Exterminator had pretty much wiped out corruption in the Land of Lincoln, Crook County, and the City that Capone built.

Such is the power of the myth of the Intrepid Crime Fighter. Question is: How does it match with reality? In the ten years the Exterminator has prowled the Windy City, spraying for cockroaches, has there been any substantive reduction in their numbers and impact?  Well, lets’ do a body count and see.

The Chicago Sun Times, which doesn’t have quite the simpatico relationship with Fitz that the Trib has, recently catalogued the cockroaches trapped in Operation Board Games.  Here’s a short list:

  • Stuart P. Levine, Pleaded guilty in October 2006 (that’s like 5 years ago) of masterminding extortion schemes and skimming “millions from construction deals the school [Chicago Medical School] gave to Jacob Kiferbaum.” Stu awaits sentencing.
  • Jacob Kiferbaum, Pleaded guilty November 2007 (a mere 4 years ago) of participating in Levine’s schemes.  Jake awaits sentencing
  • John Glennon, Pleaded guilty November 2007 of covering up for Levine and Kiferbaum.  John awaits sentencing. (Is there a trend here?)
  • Steven Loren, Pleaded guilty September 2007 “in the attempted extortion of an investment firm that sought business from the teacher-pension fund.”  Steve awaits sentencing.
  • Tony Rezko, Convicted June 2008. Volunteered to be incarcerated. Disappeared down the Federal Rabbit Hole and hasn’t yet surfaced. Tony has told associates that he expects his friend Barack to eventually pardon him. Anyone want to bet against that?
  • Ali Ata, Pleaded guilty April 2008 to not reporting $1.2 million in income from a Rezko deal, for lying to the FBI, and, as a bonus, admitted he got a well-paying state job at the Illinois Finance Authority from Rezko. Ali awaits sentencing.
  • Abdelhamid Chaib, Pleaded guilty July 2010 of interfering “with the administration of internal revenue laws” in a Rezko business transaction.  A.C. was sentenced to three years of probation and ordered to pay a $50K fine.
  • John Harris, Pleaded guilty October 2009 of helping Dead Meat try to sell Barack’s Senate seat.  Another John awaits sentencing.
  • Alonzo “Lon” Monk, Pleaded guilty October 2009 of mail fraud and scheming with Dead Meat to “get rich off state deals and split the money with Rezko and Kelly.” Lon awaits sentencing. What a surprise!
  • Anita Mahajan, Sentenced to four years of probation in August 2011 and, as the Trib reported, “ordered to pay $200,000 in fines and restitution Monday after pleading guilty to billing the state for drug tests her company never performed.” She over-billed the state $2.1 million. “Anita Mahajan, 60, the wife of a major Blagojevich fundraiser, dabbed at her eyes with a tissue and apologized as she stood before Judge James Obbish to plead guilty to a reduced count of theft of $99,900.”  You’d cry, too, if you got off so light for stealing two-mil from Illinois taxpayers.

One more not mentioned by the Sun Times

  • Joseph Cari, Pleads guilty in September 2005 of involvement in an extortion scheme that aimed to steer state pension business to companies in exchange for campaign contributions to a public official described in court docs as “Public official A [as in Dead Meat].”  In August 2011, Joe – a close friend of Joe Biden – was sentenced to three years of…wait for it…wait for it…yes, pro-ba-tion.  Oh, the state pension fund was for school teachers.

Rezko’s sentencing is pending.  Anyone want to bet against him being sentenced to time served (Where?) and three years of probation?

It’s all part of the Exterminator’s Catch & Release Program for the Cockroaches.

Hat tip: Chicago news humorist John Kass. He’s such a kidder.

11Oct/110

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? A Fitz Question for the Chicago Media (Part 8)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

When faced with an opportunity to display their professional inquisitive prowess, reporters from the Chicago dailies generally like to wind-up and lob softball questions to Fitz.

So, maybe they’d welcome a little help framing their queries. Here’s a couple for them…

First a little background: Jack Lavin is Governor Pat Quinn’s Chief of Staff these days. Once upon a time, he served as Blagojevich's director of the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity. Tony Rezko recommended him to Dead Meat for the job.  Before that, he was Chief Financial Officer of Rezko Enterprises. That means he handled Tony’s money.  Countin’ it. Movin’ it. That sort of thing.  (Smile for the camera, Jack.)

He’s given some of his own money – a little over $20 grand – to Democrat politicians (much of it to Obama, but also $2K to Jesse Jackson Junior, and $2K to Sen. Barbara Boxer), all through the Big Bundler hisownself, Tony. Hey, not a thing wrong with that.

Given Jack’s past starring role in Rezko Enterprises, maybe some enterprising Chicago reporter might ask Fitz this question:

“Is there any evidence to suggest that, while he was Rezko’s chief bean counter, Jack Lavin moved a $3,000,000 line item from the Panda Restaurant operated by Tony over into his Papa John’s Pizza books in order to help get a loan from GE Capital?”

And then, as a follow-up:

“Well, if you can’t answer that question, or won’t, then who kept Rezko’s second set of books for his Papa John’s Pizza store? And why have we never heard about that?”

Hat tip: C. Mc.

28Sep/110

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? The Silent Mole & A Complicit Newspaper (Part 5)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

Was Bernard Barton, Jr. relocated to Chicago on a mission to help bring down Tony Rezko and, thereby, shield a young, articulate, African-American politician from his potentially incriminating associations with Rezko? Too conspiratorial, you say? Maybe. Maybe not.

Let’s review the highlights of the Silent Mole, starting with an admission from the Complicit Newspaper.

The Chicago Tribune identified Thomas as a Mole in this May 4, 2007, article written by David Jackson.

John Thomas bought and sold downtown office buildings and helped other property developers secure multimillion-dollar mortgage loans.

But the high-living dealmaker had a double life.

Thomas, who was convicted of federal business fraud in New York in 2004, has been serving as an undercover government mole in Chicago for at least a year as part of an ongoing federal investigation into fraud in the financing of large-scale commercial real estate deals, the Tribune has learned.

Records made public so far do not identify the targets of the federal probe and the FBI and US Attorney’s Office declined to comment for this article.

That same May, a concerned citizen spoke on the phone with a well-known Chicago Tribune reporter.  The concerned citizen was trying to chase down information as to when the Tribune learned that John Thomas was an FBI mole while working in Rezko’s office.  “Thomas” was Barton’s new name in Chicago after being relocated from New York, where he faced prosecution and eventual sentencing for fraud.  (The complete story of Burton-Thomas is well documented and won’t be rehashed here.)

The concerned citizen asked the reporter why the Trib had sat on the Mole’s story since, at least, 2006.  That timeframe was implicitly provided by the Trib reporter when stating that Patrick Fitzgerald warned the paper, a year earlier in May 2006, that outing the Mole would cause problems for the investigation and could prove dangerous for Burton-Thomas.

Then, in a moment of indiscretion, the reporter added that Fitzgerald told the Trib in May 2006 that identifying the mole could also “influence the election.”

Now, the Illinois gubernatorial election came in November 2006, and the national election came two years after that.  To which election was the reporter referring? It wasn’t explicitly stated, but the obvious inference pointed to the Presidential election in 2008. In either case, it’s a curious statement coming from the USAO, as it was conveyed by the reporter.

There are other elements of the Burton-Thomas story equally curious.

Way back on February 22, 2002, then Tribune staff reporter Thomas A. Corfman, who followed the Mole over the years like a bloodhound, wrote this in an article:

Developer Donald Trump has picked prominent Chicago real estate firm U.S. Equities Realty to handle leasing for his proposed mixed-use skyscraper on the riverfront site of the Chicago Sun Times..

The selection was announced as questions surfaced in real estate circles about alleged criminal activity by two members of a small brokerage firm that, with Trump's blessing, last fall did some marketing of the 1.3 million square feet of office space in the massive tower.

John Thomas, a partner in Chicago-based Carnegie Realty Partners, and a Carnegie employee, Louis Giordano of New York, were arrested last year in connection with an alleged fraud scheme that took place over five years in New York.

According to an affidavit by an FBI agent, the wide-ranging scheme involved credit card fraud, forgery and allegations that the defendants, while running several billboard leasing companies, defrauded restaurants such as Hard Rock Cafe and Planet Hollywood, and entertainment companies such as Motown Records and Arista Records.

Thomas allegedly took upfront lease payments for billboards in Manhattan's Times Square and along Broadway, even though he has no contracts to hang the advertising from the buildings, according to the affidavit, which was filed in U.S. District Court in Chicago in order to obtain a warrant for Thomas' arrest.

Thomas and Giordano are free on bond, according to court records. The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York would not comment on the case.

They have not yet been indicted, although a formal charge is expected, said attorney Eugene E. Murphy Jr., who represents Thomas [and also represented Buddy Wilkins when Buddy appeared before the Rezko Grand Jury as a witness against Rezko, and he later represented Tony Rezko while at the Byran Cave law firm.]. "I look forward to defending this case," said Murphy, a partner with Chicago-based law firm Horwood Marcus & Berk. Giordano and his New York attorney could not be reached for comment.

Back when the Mole was entangled with the Eastern District of New York, Patrick Fitzgerald was an Assistant U.S. Attorney in the adjacent Southern District.  The two would later rendezvous in Chicago.

So, in February 2002, shortly after Burton-Thomas was relocated to Chicago from the Big Apple, his nefarious past was outed by a Trib reporter, but lacked any hint of his cooperation with the feds, nor reference to his real name.

(So who alerted Corfman to Thomas’s past, since he was arrested in NY under another Burton? And, if Rezko new of Burton-Thomas’ past, what sense did it make to trust him to work in his office?)  

Four years later, Corfman reported again on Burton-Thomas.  His article appearing on November 1, 2006 at ChicagoRealEstateDail.com:

John Thomas, who has done more flips than an acrobat, has tied up another downtown office tower.

A venture managed by the controversial real estate entrepreneur has agreed to buy 20 S. Clark St., an office tower overlooking Chase Plaza in the Central Loop, says Mr. Thomas, who earlier this year formed Chicago-based Morgan Street Properties LLC for his investment activities.

The price is about $54 million, sources say…

In the last two years, Mr. Thomas has bought and quickly resold several other office buildings, including 250 S. Wacker Drive, 105 W. Adams St. and 11 S. LaSalle St. Last year, a Thomas venture bought 318 W. Adams St., a small West Loop office building that is being marketed as office condominiums…

He says he is also negotiating with developer Daniel Mahru, his partner on the 105 W. Adams and 11 S. LaSalle deals., to partner with him on 20 S. Clark.

Daniel Mahru was, as you probably know, a business partner of Tony Rezko.  Eventually, Burton-Thomas went to work in that same office. The Mole was in his designated hole.

Now, jump ahead to February 2008. Sun-Times staff reporter David Roeder elaborated on the Mole’s activity:

But sources said that, for more than two years when he was giving information to agents, Thomas provided a fly-on-the-wall look inside Rezko's real estate operations and his desperate attempts to keep his projects afloat.

Sources said Thomas also logged frequent visits to Rezko from Gov. Blagojevich and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.).Blagojevich and Obama were among the many politicians for whom Rezko raised campaign cash. Neither has been charged with any wrongdoing.

Thomas had good reason to help. He hopes to get probation for his own felony fraud conviction in a New York case. And he said he wants to redeem himself in the eyes of business associates and his family.

Sources said Thomas helped investigators build a record of repeat visits to the old offices of Rezko and former business partner Daniel Mahru's Rezmar Corp., at 853 N. Elston, by Blagojevich and Obama during 2004 and 2005…

Sources said the government had him wear a hidden wire to record conversations with a Chicago alderman -- but that he did not record Blagojevich or Obama.

Why no recording of Blago and Obama?  Maybe because Blago had notoriously loose lips and might say something that implicated the Protected One, Obama.

One month later, in March 2008, presidential candidate Barack Obama was subjected to an underhand, slow-pitch softball interview by the editorial board of the Sun Times. The transcript of the interview (no longer available on line) includes this exchange:

Q: In November 2006, you and your campaign exchanged with us written interrogatories. So a lot of the quotes I will give you just come out of those. The campaign said that you probably had lunch with Rezko once or twice a year. You sort of added four or five times, something like that.

John Thomas is an FBI mole. He recently told us that he saw you coming and going from Rezko’s office a lot. And three other sources told us that you and Rezko spoke on the phone daily. Is that true?

A: (Obama) No. That’s not accurate

John Thomas aka Bernard Barton

Okay, maybe the Mole misremembered.  A bad memory might explain why he was never called by the USAO as a witness in the Rezko trial. Or, perhaps, there was another reason.

On June 21, U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo sentenced John Thomas to three years probation. His court records are sealed. His mission accomplished.  And the extent of his subsequent success in Chicago commercial real estate is displayed on his face today.

26Sep/110

Patrick Fitzgerald: Intrepid Crime Fighter? Or, Politically-Driven Leaker? Saving Jesse Jr. (Part 4)

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

As the FBI planned the arrest of Blago, most of the serious wantabees lobbying for appointment to Obama’s Senate seat had backed off the pursuit, no doubt realizing that association with Hot Rod was about to become toxic.

But, there was still one candidate with his eyes on the prize.  Right up to the day of Blago’s arrest, Candidate #5’s people were working hard to put a package together to buy their guy the seat. Had Fitzpatrick waited a bit longer to pull the trigger on Blago, Candidate #5 might have been swept up in Fitz’s rush to stop a “corruption crime spree” in progress.

But it wasn’t to be, because the precise timing of the arrest of Blago was really about saving Jesse Jackson Junior’ political career.  And maybe even his freedom.

The Designated Bundler: Raghuveer Nayak

A prominent member of the Chicago Indian business community plays a key role in this story.

Here’s how the Chicago Tribune described Raghuveer Nayak in a December 10, 2008 article:

Nayak, 54, is a political and community leader in Chicago's Indian community who has raised hundreds of thousands of dollars for Blagojevich, including more than $200,000 from Nayak, his wife and his various corporations. Nayak and his wife have donated more than $22,000 to Jackson, federal records show, and raised more for the congressman.

Nayak owns a series of surgery centers on Chicago's North Side. He also founded and until recently retained an ownership stake in a drug testing laboratory with millions of dollars in Illinois public aid contracts.

The Fund Raising Event

According to that same Tribune article, Nayak and Jessie Jackson Junior’s brother, Jonathan Jackson, co-hosted an October 31, 2008 “Blagojevich fundraiser” in Elmhurst. “According to several people who were there, Nayak and Jonathan Jackson go back years and the two even went into business together years ago as part of a land purchase on the South Side.”

So the Jacksons and Nayak were long-time buds.

Joliet pharmacist Harish Bhatt was among those attending the event. More on him later.

The December 10, 2008 Tribune also reported that:

Two businessmen who attended the meeting and spoke to the Tribune on the condition of anonymity said that Nayak and Blagojevich aide Rajinder Bedi {remember his name, too} privately told many of the more than two dozen attendees the fundraising effort was aimed at supporting Jackson's bid for the Senate.

A year-and-a-later, on July 7, 2010, a Chicagobreakingnews.com article reported that:

A supporter of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. told the Democratic congressman in 2008 that he would raise $1 million in return for then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich naming Jackson to the U.S. Senate, a federal prosecutor said today.

The allegation, made on a busy day at Blagojevich's federal corruption trial, was the first time authorities publicly suggested Jackson was aware of efforts by his allies to swap campaign cash for his appointment to the Senate seat vacated by President-elect Barack Obama.

Prosecutors also played a rapid-fire sequence of secret wiretap recordings that show Blagojevich reluctantly warming to Jackson as a Senate pick after first profanely ripping him as a non-starter.”

Nearly three months later after the Chicagobreakingnews.com piece, on September 21, 2010, the Chicago Sun-Times (article available here) followed suit with,

Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. directed a major political fund-raiser to offer former Gov. Rod Blagojevich millions of dollars in campaign cash in return for an appointment to the U.S. Senate, sources said the fund-raiser has told federal authorities.

The allegation by Oak Brook businessman Raghuveer Nayak counters public statements made as recently as last week by Jackson that he never authorized any deal to attempt to buy the Senate seat.

The FBI interviewed that acquaintance -- a Washington, D.C., restaurant hostess named Giovana Huidobro {with whom JJ Junior was having an affair} -- about a year ago as part of its corruption probe of Blagojevich. Authorities were trying to determine whether Jackson had asked Nayak to offer Blagojevich campaign cash in exchange for the then-governor appointing Jackson to the seat once held by President Obama, according to sources with knowledge of the probe.

Huidobro, Jackson and Nayak all dined together on Oct. 8, 2008 {about three weeks before the Oct 30 Elmhurst fundraiser} -- the same day that Nayak has told authorities he had a key conversation with Jackson about the Senate appointment, sources said. The three then ended up at Ozio, the restaurant and club where Huidobro works and where Jackson has held fund-raisers.

Before he dined with Huidobro and Jackson on Oct. 8, 2008, Nayak said he had a critical conversation with the congressman about the seat while the two were alone. Nayak, also a former Blagojevich fund-raiser, said that Jackson asked him to tell Blagojevich that if the then-governor appointed Jackson to the U.S. Senate, Chicago's Indian community would raise $1 million for Blagojevich and -- after Jackson was appointed -- Jackson would raise $5 million for the then-governor.

Here’s a version of J.J. Junior’s “public statement” mentioned in the second paragraph above:


A concise account of the ramp-up among Blago and his advisors concerning the possibility of appointing J.J. Junior to the Senate also appears in the July 7 Chicagobreakingnews.com piece linked above.

Here’s the setting: During the first Blago trial, Rajinder Bedi was being questioned by Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Niewoehner.

Bedi testified he met with Jackson and another important Indian businessman, Raghuveer Nayak, at a Loop restaurant on Oct. 28, 2008, and Jackson expressed his interest in Obama's Senate seat.

At that point, U.S. District Judge James Zagel sent jurors out of the room, then asked Niewoehner to explain where the testimony was headed.

Nayak says to Jackson in Bedi's presence, “I will raise a million if he appoints you to the Senate seat,” Niewoehner explained.

Zagel barred Niewoehner from asking Bedi about that part of the conversation before jurors, but Bedi did testify that both Jackson's interest in the seat and fundraising were discussed with Jackson sitting at the table. Prosecutors then played wiretaps of conversations in which Blagojevich and his brother, Robert, appeared aware of the approach involving Jackson. {one such transcript is below}.

In one, recorded the same day as that restaurant meeting, Robert Blagojevich told the governor that Bedi had filled him in on the details, including Nayak's offer to do "some accelerated fundraising" on the governor's behalf if Jackson got the Senate nod.

Three days later, Gov. Blagojevich was recorded talking about overtures for Jackson in a conversation with one of his deputy governors, Robert Greenlee.

"I'm tellin' ya that guy's shameless," Greenlee said.

"Unbelievable isn't it," responded Blagojevich. "Then I, we were approached, pay to play. That, you know he'd raise me 500 grand, an emissary came, then the other guy would raise a million, if I made him a senator."

In a Dec. 4 telephone call with one of his advisers, Fred Yang, Blagojevich said he was now keeping an open mind on "clearly somethin' I would never have considered and that's Jesse Jr."

The thought was repugnant, Blagojevich said, but "just between you and me, they've offered a whole bunch of different things they wanna do for me." Those things included fundraising, Blagojevich said on the recording, asking Yang to think about the politics of making a pick that was sure to be unpopular with the Washington establishment.

A couple of hours later, the governor was on the phone with his brother, filling him in on the idea that he had elevated Jackson to the top of the list of candidates he was considering to replace Obama. He wasn't going to tolerate making a pick and getting nothing in return, he said on the recording.

"And I can cut a better political deal with these Jacksons and, and most of it you probably can't believe, but some of it can be tangible upfront," Blagojevich said to his brother.

He directed Robert Blagojevich to get in touch with Nayak and explain that Jackson was a realistic pick, but the promised help had to start coming in immediately. And he warned him to be careful how that message was delivered.

Blago wasn’t keen on appointing J.J. Junior to the Senate, but the more the money-talk heated up, the more he warmed to the idea.

On December 6, the Blagojevich brothers had this brief conversation.

Date: 12/6/08

Time: 12:39 pm

Robert Blagojevich Cell Phone

Session: 2615

Speakers:

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH

ROD BLAGOJEVICH

ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH {The Governor’s brother} Well, here’s one, uh that’s    pending tonight, possibly, with Raghu {Nayak}.  And all I’m thinking, all I’m thinking about saying is, you know, your guy’s meeting with Rod on Monday.  That’s all I’m gonna say, and I’ll leave it at that. Based on what you told me, correct? 

ROD BLAGOJEVICH Yeah, that’s all. You know, if he says, I can do a lot more money, say, that’s you know, you answer that and just say, uh, look one, you know, that’s, that’s your decision…

 ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH One is not tied to the other. One is not tied to the other.  And if you want to, obviously, we want to help you do that.”

 ROD BLAGOJEVICH Yeah, that’s good. I like that. But you..yeah, that’s good.

 ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH Alright, well, I hear your caution, and I’m not being defensive, I’m just trying to be explanatory, that’s all.  Alright, look, I’m freezing my ass off.  I’ve got to get in the shower here.

 ROD BLAGOJEVICH I’ll see you.

 ROBERT BLAGOJEVICH Alright bye.

 ROD BLAGOJEVICH Bye.

On Monday, December 8, JJ Junior and Blago met for 90 minutes during which J.J. Junior said, later, that he merely laid out his qualifications as a potential Senator.  No pay-to-play was discussed, he claimed.

On Tuesday, December 9, the FBI arrested Blago at his home.

Nayak, Harish, and Bedi – What’s become of them?

Raghu has had his own problems with a federal grand jury.

A federal grand jury has subpoenaed dozens of doctors in the Chicago area as part of a probe into a wealthy Indian-American fund-raiser who owns surgical centers — and has ties to U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, sources told the Chicago Sun-Times.

While the FBI and IRS investigation is centered on businessman and political fund-raiser Raghuveer Nayak, who owns surgical centers in Illinois and Indiana, the feds have cast a wide net: Sources said at least 30 doctors received grand jury subpoenas, and more than 10 of Nayak’s employees have also been subpoenaed.

In addition, two of Nayak’s surgery centers in Chicago were hit with search warrants in late January, and at least half a dozen doctors have been offered immunity or been granted immunity for their testimony, sources with knowledge of the investigation say.

Federal authorities are investigating whether Nayak made improper payments to the doctors in order to draw their surgeries to his centers. Under the allegations, while private insurers paid doctors and the centers for surgeries performed, Nayak is under investigation for allegedly separately paying doctors hundreds of dollars for every surgery brought to the centers. Doctors who perform out-patient surgeries, including chiropractors and podiatrists, practice at the centers and can choose to bring their work to the centers rather than a hospital.

Harish was visited by the FBI.

FBI agents on Thursday searched two Joliet drugstores owned by a major fundraiser for Gov. Rod Blagojevich who was the focus of a state investigation into whether campaign donations were made in exchange for regulatory favors.

Agents took records from the Basinger's Pharmacy stores but declined to say what they were investigating. FBI spokesman Ross Rice confirmed search warrants were executed and said no arrests were made.

The pharmacies are owned by Harish M. Bhatt, a prominent Indian businessman who helped the state's top pharmacy regulator win his job. The Tribune reported last year that state pharmacy auditors probing allegations of Medicaid fraud at Basinger’s complained that their bosses thwarted the investigation.

Bhatt denied he exerted any improper influence and said the investigation stalled for lack of evidence. State police and federal corruption investigators reopened the Bhatt investigation after Tribune reports.

And Bedi got arrested for shoplifting.  Back in April 2009, Bedi was fired from his $100K-plus job at the Illinois Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, so maybe he was short on cash.

Jesse Jackson Junior – What’s become of him?

Well, nothing so far.  He continues to be a United States Congressman. In the wake of his affair becoming public and lingering doubts surrounding his activities as Candidate #5, he decided not to run for Mayor of Chicago.  Nowadays, he keeps a relatively low profile.

Best of all, for him, is that he didn’t get indicted for trying to buy a seat in the United States Senate. For that he has the U.S. Attorney for the Northeastern District of Illinois to thank.

So why would Patrick Fitzgerald want to step in, at the 11th hour, to stop J.J. Junior from stepping on a political and criminal landmine?