Jontel Kassidy, Senior Capital Correspondent
Since at least last January 22nd, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has known of Daniel Frawley’s claim that he gave Tony Rezko $400,000 in cash that Rezko then passed on to U.S. Senator Barack Obama. We believe, though, that that knowledge goes back much earlier.
In a December 11, 2011 Illinois Pay To Play (IP2P) article entitled “The Fitz Solution to Corruption: The Citizens Report It,” we noted that “While commenting on Blago’s prison sentence, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald repeated what has become for him a common theme: Illinois citizens are responsible for stopping corruption by reporting it to the authorities.”
Along with that article, IP2P posted a video clip wherein Fitzgerald stated that there needed to “be a change in the public’s attitude. People seem resigned to corruption at times and…they’re afraid to say ‘no’ when someone in power asks them for something they shouldn’t. The people in power should be afraid to ask.”
So it’s a fact that the U.S. Attorney has, on several occasions, encouraged average citizens to get involved in fighting corruption.
Well, we found one citizen who did just that, back on January 22nd – six weeks ago. Here’s the email thread the citizen sent.
From: Address Deleted
To: "Randall Samborn" <Address Deleted@usdoj.gov>, "Kimberly Nerheim" <Adress Deleted@usdoj.gov>
Sent: Tuesday, January 24, 2012 9:15:44 PM
Subject: Public outreach/safety.
Mr Randall Samborn and Ms. Kimberly Nerheim
I am more than a little concerned by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's complete lack of response to the serious matter that has been brought to his attention below. Mr. Fitzgerald made a very public outreach encouraging people to report corruption to his office. Hopefully he will not disappoint those he urged to risk so much ?
From: Address Deleted
To: "Randall Samborn" <Address Deleted@usdoj.gov>
Cc: "Kimberly Nerheim" <Address Deleted@usdoj.gov>
Sent: Sunday, January 22, 2012 4:11:12 PM
Subject: What happens when citizens step up?
Mr. Randall Samborn
U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald has repeatedly challenged the public to do something about corruption in Illinois by bringing information of illegal acts directly to him. Mr. Samborn, while I agree the premise of reporting crime to the U.S. Attorney is a logical step in fighting corruption, I do not underestimate the serious danger those who do are put in.
Need I remind you, it was also Patrick Fitzgerald who acknowledged that his office may be the source for information being leaked to the very criminals he urges the public to inform on. With this in mind, please personally hand a copy of this email to U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and ask him to personally send me a response addressing concerns I have about his office and my personal safety. At the very least Mr Fitzgerald can acknowledge the risk I am taking exposing corruption at the highest levels.
> ---------- Forwarded message ----------
> From: Dan Frawley <Address Deleted@gmail.com>
> Date: Tue, 31 May 2011 08:08:15 -0500
> Subject: Frawely vs Weaver
> To: XXXXX XXXXX <XXXXXXXX@gmail.com>
> Hi XXXX
> I think the best way to bring this to the public and media is to fact
> 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 of a legal action not a personal
> 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 we figure out the best timing.
And in response, what did the citizen hear back from the U.S. Attorney’s office?
Hugo Floriani, Investigative Reporter
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.
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)
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.
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.
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.
Annabel Kent, Chicago Media Critic
On October 17, 2008 the Chicago Sun Times endorsed Senator Barack Obama for election to the Presidency. Some of the reasons they gave included:
Americans are ready to be one country. By the millions, they yearn to bridge their differences, to find common cause, to rise above ideology, race, class and religion.
They have grown weary of the culture wars and the personal attacks, tired of the exaggerated lines that divide. They dare to imagine a more constructive discourse, a debate marked by civility and respect even in disagreement, a politics that begins with listening to each other, and in Sen. Obama they see a man of exceptional gifts who just might show them how…
Our endorsement for president of the United States goes to Sen. Barack Obama, Chicago's adopted son. He has the unique background, superior intellect, sound judgment and first-rate temperament to lead our nation in difficult times.
Sen. Obama climbed the ladder of Chicago Democratic politics -- from community organizer to state senator to U.S. senator -- while dodging the tag of "machine made." He developed alliances with the old Harold Washington coalition, but also with party stalwarts like State Sen. Emil Jones. He mostly steered clear of unwise political entanglements, and on those rare occasions when he did use poor judgment he grew from the mistake. Specifically, the senator learned the enormous importance of transparency in politics when he was dogged by questions about his relationship with Tony Rezko, the political fixer. When he finally sat down with the Sun-Times Editorial Board and answered every question, the Rezko story lost its steam…
Our next president must be a person of steady temperament, superb judgment and compassion. He must stand tall for America, first and always, but be unafraid to listen to the world. He must demand the best in us.
In Barack Obama, we see America's best hope for a president who is right for the times.
So, to summarize, the Editorial Board of the Chicago Sun Times expected Obama to be a President who would:
- “rise above ideology, race, class and religion”
- promote “a more constructive discourse, a debate marked by civility and respect even in disagreement, a politics that begins with listening to each other”
- “stand tall (not bow) for America”
- display “a first-rate temperament to lead our nation in difficult times”
- “demand the best in us”
- be “right for the times”
- be free of the tag of “machine made” in Chicago
That’s not all the accolades endorsement offered, just some of those supporting their support of Obama – “Chicago’s adopted son”.
All of these assumptions about Senator Obama seem to have been based on the singular accomplishment during his interview with the Editorial Board: “When he finally sat down with the Sun-Times Editorial Board and answered every question, the Rezko story lost its steam.” Here’s a pdf of the entire interview.
In order to appreciate the astonishing lack of depth of this “interview”, you must read the entire transcript. To call it a superficial inquiry is a vast understatement. It was a perfunctory love fest.
It’s clear that the entire exercise was staged to validate an endorsement decision that had already been made.
So, after three years, do you folks sitting around the table above want a Mulligan on your endorsement? Or, have your expectations been fulfilled? What say you?
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?
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.
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.
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!
Thomas Barton, Illinois Pay-to-Play Political Commentator
The Jimmy Hoffa of federal prisoners may be getting ready to finally surface, in the flesh. Talk of Tony Rezko’s imminent sentencing is building. Suppose that means anything, this time?
After 3½ years of self-imposed incarceration, somewhere on the planet, he’s about to surface, according to the Chicago Tribune. According to another source, Tony “has spent much of his more than 3½ years in jail in solitary, rarely getting fresh air and subject to a diet that has resulted in him losing 80 pounds, according to a defense filing unsealed Thursday.” Poor Tony. He’s been Steve McQueen in the 1973 movie Papillon.
Paa-leese. We’re supposed to believe that Tony has been doing hard time at the…well, where has he been all this hard time? On a military base in Wisconsin playing golf in a light disguise four times a week? Indoor tennis on rainy days? And where is he now? When will those relentless investigative reporters at the Chicago Tribune and Sun Times be able to ask him their piercing interrogatives?
Tony’s attorneys want him sentences to time served. (Where was that again?)
Patrick Fitzgerald’s office wants him sentenced to from 11-15 years because – get ready for this – he failed to cooperate with prosecutors. That’s why, we’re to believe, Tony wasn’t called as a witness in the Blago trial. After 3½ years, the U.S. Attorney finally decided that Tony hasn’t cooperated. Geeze, Louise. Buying that requires…a willing suspension of disbelief. (The Tribune’s John Kass will buy it, though. For him, Fitzgerald is the Great Exterminator.)
Sentencing by U.S. Judge Amy St. Eve is set, yet again, for Nov. 22. Waiting for St. Eve to sentence Tony is like waiting for Gogot. Birthdays pass while waiting. Wanna bet it’ll be postponed again?
But what if it isn’t postponed? Will her Honor throw the book at Tony? Or, sentence him to time served. Or, maybe 4 months in a federal pen where, for the 3 months he has to put in, he can work on his backhand tennis return.
The best way to watch all this is to pull up an easy chair, get a bag of popcorn and enjoy the show. Cause it’s all theatre, folks. Tony’s friend Obama is going to pardon him eventually anyway. After all the money Tony passed his way, Tony deserves some executive clemency. Tony’s mentioned he expects a pardon to two former associates.
Aretha Franklin asked the relevant question about all this…
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…
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.