11Apr/120

Editorial: U.S. Attorney sits on accusations detailing McMahon games with city contracts

Ernie Souchak, Editor-in-Chief, Illinois Pay-to-Play

The lead attorney for Eric Holder’s Department of Selective Justice in the Northeastern District of Northern Illinois has, for years, been sitting on taped conversations that outline how the McMahon companies in Chicago have long played games with city contracts.

Recently, the Sun Times put the McMahon’s in their journalistic crosshairs by citing a Daniel T. Frawley “Whistleblower” lawsuit that we, at IP2P, don’t believe exists.  Now why would they do that?

Because these days the Times gets its marching orders from His Honor Mayor Emanuel, who is out to destroy the myth of the Daley Machine as a regime that made Chicago “the City that works”.  (Meanwhile, the snoring Trib takes it's orders from Rip van Winkle.)  Rahm aims to be heralded as the man who cleaned-up Chicago by revealing the true Daley image as having facilitated “the City that cheats”.

And cheat it does.  The whole nation knows that.  But the nation also assumes that its local branch of the U.S. Department of Justice is working hard to hinder the cheating.  After all, aren’t the crooks of Cook County continually hunted by those intrepid FBI agents of Patrick “Elliott Ness” Fitz’s office, ever alert to the opportunity to stop crime sprees, a la Blago’s.  That’s the meme anyway.

IP2P has recently received summaries of federally monitored conversations from years past that suggest a more accurate image of the local office of Holder’s Department of Selective Justice.  This one suggests an investigative organization on a long voyeuristic trek when it comes to Chicago corruption.  It hides in the shadows, listens in on conversations, and watches criminal activities for years as it waits for…waits for what?

It waits for a green light from incumbent politicos to signal when it’s politically expedient to take out a crooked politician, or a bent real estate speculator?  Or, in the David Koschman case, it sits on evidence of a crooked police official who hindered the murder investigation, and thereby it, too, becomes complicit in the long denial of justice to Mrs. Nancy Koschman for the murder of her son. That’s not Ness-like behavior.

On several occasions, Fitzgerald has said that corruption can only stop when citizens come forward to report what they know.  So should we at IP2P be good citizens and send what we’ve been given to Fitz for further, extensive, thorough, professional “investigation”?   Why bother - they already have it, and have had it for years.

What about the U.S. Attorney’s office enforcing the law based on what they already know?

If not now – then when? When a politician says it’s “OK”?

27Feb/120

Former Rezko partner says he gave Tony $400K for Obama

Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter

Daniel T. Frawley, a former business partner of Antoin “Tony” Rezko, claims he gave Rezko $400,000 that Rezko gave to then U.S. Senator Barack Obama.

This claim comes through Frawley’s emails to, and conversations with, Robert “Bob” Cooley, former Chicago mob lawyer turned government informer and author of the book on Chicago corruption entitled “When Corruption Was King”. 

Cooley was the star witness in a series of trials in the early 1990’s as part of an F.B.I. investigation named Operation Gambat. Those trials led to the convictions of over a score of Chicago crooks, including First Ward Alderman Fred Roti, a made-man; the Chief Judge of Cook County’s Chancery Court; the Assistant Majority Leader of the Illinois State Senate; and the only Federal Judge in U.S. history convicted of fixing a murder trial.

About April 2011, Frawley, along with Daniel Mahru, a former business associate of Rezko dating back to 1989, and a former business partner of current White House Advisor Valerie Jarrett, began conversations with Cooley concerning collaboration on a book about Chicago corruption.

Frawley’s claim that the money he gave Rezko went to Obama is alluded to in a December 1, 2010 deposition executed in the context of a legal malpractice complaint filed by Frawley, on July 9, 2010, against his former attorney and long-time friend, George Weaver.

Frawley alleges that Weaver was not representing his best interests when Weaver interrupted a March 2006 phone conversation, supervised by the U.S. Attorney’s Office, between Frawley and Rezko who were scheduling a face-to-face meeting.

Frawley cooperated with U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation of Rezko by wearing a wire.

On page 21 of the deposition, this exchange is recorded between Weaver’s attorney, Daniel F. Konicek, and Frawley:

Konicek: And Tony Rezko was where when you were speaking to him?

Frawley: He was on the other end of the phone. I don’t recall where he was.

Konicek: Okay. Now, that answers one part of the question is who was present when Mr. Weaver made a gesture across his neck with both hands [signaling that the conversation should cease]. But my question was a little different because your complaint specifically alleges he [Weaver] told you to withhold certain information, right.

Frawley: Yes.

Konicek: I’m assuming the information is about the payments made by Rezko to Obama, so we know we’re talking about the right conversation, right?

Franklin: (Charles Franklin, representing Frawley.) I’m not going to make any objection. I think that’s – you may make that assumption, but I think it’s unfair to make the – to have Mr. Frawley make the assumption. Also, it doesn’t go to who or where or the forum non conveniens issue.

Konicek: There’s going to be multiple conversations, I want to make sure I understand where each occurred. So you said he (Weaver) withheld information.  Am I correct it was about Obama being paid by Rezko?

The Witness: (Frawley) I’m not answering that question based upon my attorney’s instructions.

Less than two months later, on January 26, 2011, the feds charged Frawley with bank fraud, although the statute of limitations on his crime had expired. He pled guilty on February 14, 2011 and was ordered to make restitution of $4,000,000. He awaits sentencing in mid-April after four previous sentencing dates were postponed.

Frawley’s claim, that he passed money to Rezko that went to Obama, is referenced in an email to Cooley dated May 31, 2011, wherein Frawley outlines his thoughts on how to bring “this” to the public’s attention.

From: Dan Frawley (address deleted)
Date: Tue, 31 May 2011 08:08:15 -0500
Subject: Frawely [sic] vs Weaver
To: Robert XXXXX (Cooley address deleted)

Hi Bob
I think the best way to bring this to the public and media is to fact plead the malpractice case against Weaver.

I have discussed this with my attorney's and they are willing to do it at the right time and way. Instead of a news conference being called like the gay guy did with Obama.

PUT AS THE GUTS OF THE SUIT THE MEETING AT THE FOUR SEASONS AND THE 4OO GRAND GOING TO YOU KNOW WHO AND THE USE OF THE MONEY.

I would bring this out in the for [sic] of a legal action not a personal vendetta. The media with the right reporters would make sure that was national news. When the usual denials are made or the old I don't remember I hit him with the second naming names dates and places.
Punches are always more effective when thrown in combination. know [sic] we figure out the best timing.
DAN

Cooley confirmed to a source that “YOU KNOW WHO” refers to then U.S. Senator Barack Obama.

Cooley also told a source that, “Dan was wearing a wire for a couple of years on Tony Rezko, and he told the feds he was giving money to Rezko for Barack Obama. They told him over and over again never to discuss Obama and wires with the FBI, the U.S. Attorney’s office, and never even mention Obama’s name.”

Another undercover operative for the feds in the investigation of Rezko, Bernard T. Barton, Jr., alias “John Thomas,” was also prohibited from taping conversations concerning Obama.

According to the source, Cooley added that Frawley told him in several emails, during multiple phone conversations, and in a face-to-face meeting in Chicago, that he gave more than $1 million to Rezko “who said that he wanted it for Obama.”

Cooley speculated to the source that the indictment of Frawley ten years after the commission of bank fraud was intended “to keep him quiet, to keep him from talking.”

Despite his long association with Rezko, Frawley was not called as a prosecution witness in Rezko’s 2008 trial.

8Dec/110

NewGeography.com Questions Chicago Press Complicity In Illinois Corruption

Pay-to-Play Editorial Staff

Steve Bartin, writing for the website NewGeography.com, in an article entitled “Blago’s Historic Sentencing: Organized Crime in Illinois,” asks an important question. One that the Chicago media, particularly the Tribune and Sun Times, should be asking themselves today: “Could a more vigilant press have stopped the amazing political career of Rod Blagojevich?”

At Illinois Pay-to-Play, we’ve been wondering the same thing. Bartin mentions Robert Cooley in his piece. We at Illinois Pay-to-Play trust Cooley. He’s proved his veracity as few in Chicago have. His story, linked within the excerpt from Bartin’s article below, proves his reliability.

Also, we here are aware of the identities of several reporters, from both big Chicago tree-killing news outlets, who were given information by Cooley about Candidate Obama’s associations with…let’s say, persons-of-interest, before the ’08 election. In most cases, the information was ignored. It didn’t fit the papers’ template of support for their local Senator. Obama, they assumed, would help Chicago get the Olympics, guaranteed to help slow the city’s slide toward bankruptcy and grease the palms of some connected Southside land developers and contractors – not to mention politicians.  Good for business, and, therefore, circulation.

In one particular instance, a well-known reporter was so bold as to say to Cooley something to the effect that, “Our editors don’t want us reporting on that.”

We can report here that a staff member at Illinois Pay-to-Play had a similar response, nearly verbatim, with a reporter for one of the two major dailies concerning another corruption story.

Here’s part of what Bartin writes:

Former Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich was sentenced today to 14 years in prison. Illinois will now have the dubious distinction of having two back-to-back Governors in jail at the same time. Could a more vigilant press have stopped the amazing political career of Rod Blagojevich? When you look into the background of the former Governor the tentacles of organized crime can’t be ignored.

Rod Blagojevich has been identified as a former associate of the Elmwood Park street crew of the Chicago Mob by Justice Department informant Robert Cooley. The allegations concern Blagojevich paying street tax to the Chicago Mob to operate a bookmaking operation. Former senior FBI agent James Wagner confirmed that Cooley told the FBI about Blagojevich in the 1980s. The Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune still haven’t reported on the Cooley allegations concerning Blagojevich.

Visit here to read the rest of Bartin’s article.

As the nation becomes further aware of Illinois’, and especially Chicago’s, depth of corruption, its attention is likely to turn toward the Chicago newspapers and start asking questions. One of those questions will be this:

Could the depth of Illinois corruption exist without, if not the direct complicity, at least the negligence and incompetence of the two big dailies?

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.

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.