Ernie Souchak, Editor-in-Chief
Trib reporter John Chase knows much about Dr. Ronald Michael, the mystery man pictured with George W. Bush at a fundraiser sponsored by Antoin “Tony” Rezko.
Chase told a source that Tony Rezko lived with the Michael family when he came to Chicago from Lebanon as a young man. Chase said that Michael was involved with Rezko in securing reconstruction contracts in Iraq. And, that Michael was trying to get Federal and Illinois state funding for a project involving property he owned in Iraq.
When pressed for details, Chase would not disclose where the monies would come from, nor for what purposes they’d be granted.
Chase was also the first to confirm that the “John Doe” filed lawsuit against the Sun Times was filed by Dr. Ronald Michael. Furthermore, Chase confirmed that Michael threatened to sue Chase and the Trib if he, Chase, outed him as Mr. Doe.
Michael's threat worked.
John Chase, who has much to tell about the mystery man who, according to Chase, gave convicted felon Tony Rezko his start in Chicago, has never told Tribune readers what he knows.
Oh, did we mention that Michael was on the Blagojevich $25,000 Donor Clout List? And that Michael’s name also appeared on a list of possible appointees to the Illinois Health Planning Board with the initials “TR” next to it?
Michael was not appointed to the Planning Board, but his friends Dr. Fortunee Massuda, Dr. Michel Malek, and Dr. Imad Almanaseer were.
Michael followed the banking route instead, and that venture will cost the FDIC over $3,000,000. (Stand by, we’ll have more on the bank thing later.)
Why would someone who purports to be a "journalist and author" leave out such relevant, interesting and important information from his articles and book?
John, you saving the good stuff for a screenplay, or what?
Meanwhile, the Valarie Plame story is falling apart. Who will have the most interesting story there - once-jailed New York Times journalist Judith Miller, or John Chase?
Ernie Souchak, Editor-in-Chief
He's "John Doe"
And he filed a lawsuit against the Chicago Sun Times
Just when you thought you have seen it all "John Doe" files a lawsuit for libel . "Only in Chicago"
Mystery man and President George W. Bush
We are waiting for a comment from the Chicago Sun Times and hope to bring you more details of this unusual situation shortly.
DOC Banks on government cash
Unpaid taxes no obstacle | Big campaign donor still got OK to buy controlling interest in bank
October 18, 2007
BY CHRIS FUSCO Staff Reporter
Dr. Ronald Michael once headed a company that faced more than its share of money troubles. It didn't pay its taxes. And it ended up bankrupt.
But those financial problems didn't prove to be a hurdle when Michael decided to buy a downstate bank.
• Indicted but still lobbying
The List: Doctor's political giving
Dr. Ronald Michael has given a total of $178,390 to state lawmakers, state political groups and Chicago aldermen. Nearly 60 percent of the money has gone to Republicans.
Judy Baar Topinka, former state treasurer and 2006 GOP nominee for governor: $63,810
Gov. Blagojevich (D): $47,000
Illinois Republican Party: $25,000
State Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias (D): $21,180
Cook County Commissioner Tony Peraica (R): $10,000
State Senate Majority Leader Debbie Halvorson (D): $3,000
Former Gov. George Ryan (R): $2,500
Kankakee Republican Central Committee: $2,400
Jim Ryan, former attorney general and 2002 GOP gubernatorial nominee (R): $1,500
State Senate President Emil Jones (D): $1,000
Chicago 1st Ward Ald. Manuel "Manny" Flores (D): $750
Chicago 7th Ward Ald. Sandi Jackson (D): $250
Republican total: $105,210
Democratic total: $73,180
Source: Illinois State Board of Elections
State and federal officials signed off on the Bourbonnais neurosurgeon's purchase of 73 percent of Arcola Homestead Savings Bank in 2003. And in the past year, the tiny bank has seen a big boost in deposits from public, taxpayer-funded sources.
So how do you go from running a bankrupt company to owning a bank with millions in government deposits?
Michael -- who's made $178,390 in campaign contributions to state and local officials and thousands of dollars more to federal candidates -- won't say. "I'm not talking about my personal life," he says.
His business troubles involve a restaurant delivery company called Hypermeals Inc. In the late 1990s, Michael started a business that acquired a 70 percent stake in Hypermeals. He personally held a 2.5 percent stake in Hypermeals and served as its chairman.
In 2002, Hypermeals' troubles boiled over. The company filed for bankruptcy that May after failing to pay $34,987 in state taxes. The state filed a second tax lien -- for $49,979 -- against the company in 2004. Hypermeals still owes the tax man, records show.
Less than six months after the bankruptcy filing, Michael began seeking approval to buy Arcola Homestead from then-Gov. George Ryan's administration. State and federal banking officials gave their OK to the $1.1 million purchase in February 2003, a month after Gov. Blagojevich took office.
Bank regulators won't say if they investigated Michael's involvement with Hypermeals. Nor will they release details of the financial report Michael filed with his banking application. They cite privacy laws.
But records show that, as of June 30, 2006, Arcola Homestead had just $550,000 in deposits from state and local government entities. A year later, that figure had soared to $7.2 million.
FDIC records don't specify where the cash comes from. But the Illinois State Treasurer's office says it has $285,000 in Michael's bank. The most recent deposit came in January 2004, when then-state Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka deposited $95,000 in state funds.
Subsequently, in May 2005, Michael started donating to Topinka's failed 2006 run for governor. In all, he ended up giving Topinka $63,810.
Michael also has given $21,180 to current state Treasurer Alexi Giannoulias, a Democrat.
Topinka and Giannoulias say Michael's contributions didn't affect decisions about his bank. Also, they say they didn't even know Michael was in the banking business, that they knew only that he was a doctor.
Gov. Blagojevich has accepted $47,000 from Michael, including $25,000 on Nov. 23, 2002 -- 18 days after Blagojevich won election.
About three months later, on Feb. 28, 2003, Michael won approval to take control of Arcola Homestead. He gave another $20,000 to the governor's campaign fund on July 25, 2003.
The donations had nothing to do with Michael being OKd to buy the bank, Blagojevich campaign spokesman Doug Scofield says.