Fundraiser tied to alleged Senate seat bribe pleads guilty Friday
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter September 20, 2013 9:54AM
Raghuveer Nayak — a former campaign fund-raiser for U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.) who was also a key figure in the Rod Blagojevich scandal, leaves the Dirksen Federal Building Wednesday, June 20, 2012 after a court hearing. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times
Updated: October 22, 2013 6:08AM
Raghuveer Nayak — the wealthy fundraiser for convicted politicians Jesse Jackson Jr. and Rod Blagojevich — is himself now a convicted felon after he pleaded guilty Friday to healthcare fraud.
The 58-year-old pharmacist and surgery center owner from Oak Brook was for years an insider whose deep pockets politicos leaned on.
But he cut a desperate figure Friday as he pleaded guilty to paying bribes to doctors for patient referrals and to tax fraud.
“I’m fighting for my life,” he croaked in a weak and almost inaudible voice as he stood before U.S. Judge Robert Gettleman, barely speaking above a whisper as he added, “I plead guilty.”
Nayak, who once picked up a $7,500 unpaid tab for a Rod Blagojevich fundraiser, and more notably, paid to fly a “social acquaintance” of U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. across the country at Jackson’s request, faces up to 23 years in prison and a fine of $500,000 when he is sentenced in January, though a prison term of one-and-a-half to five years is more likely under sentencing guidelines.
In his pomp, Nayak enjoyed wining and dining politicians, for whom he held fundraisers at his home, pouring money into numerous politicians’ campaigns, from Barack Obama to Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan to Gov. Pat Quinn.
At Blagojevich’s second trial, prosecutors had a distinct way to refer to the wealthy businessman: He was “the bribe guy,” who in 2008 allegedly offered millions of dollars to Rod Blagojevich’s brother in exchange for appointing Jackson Jr. to Obama’s vacant Senate seat.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Nayak has reserved the right to change his guilty plea in one of the two counts he was convicted of Friday if an appeal he has filed with the federal court of appeals is successful. His attorney, Thomas McQueen, acknowledged Friday that would require the appeals court to reverse its long held opinion on how “honest services” laws are applied, however.
Nayak, who has previously dodged press photographers at the Dirksen Federal Courts building, spent Friday afternoon alone in an upstairs cafeteria at the courthouse in another apparent bid not to be photographed.