Ex-government mole blasts suburb for accusing him of taking TIF money
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter April 23, 2014 7:16PM
John Thomas leaves the Dirksen Federal Building after being indicted for allegedly stealing $370,000 from the Village of Riverdale in tax increment financing funds connected to the development of Riverdale Marina. | Richard A. Chapman/Sun-Times
Updated: May 25, 2014 3:50PM
A convicted fraudster accused of stealing $370,000 that was meant to be used to redevelop south suburban Riverdale’s marina accused the village of trying to “ruin my life” and said the town’s taxpayers can keep the marina.
Real estate developer John Thomas — a former government mole who dodged prison for a big time billboard scam by helping bring down political fund-raiser Tony Rezko — delivered the angry rant outside court Wednesday afternoon, just moments after prosecutors accused him of violating the terms of his bail.
Arrested on Friday, Thomas, 51, allegedly took tax increment financing that was earmarked for the redevelopment of Riverdale’s blighted marina and used it for personal expenses, including his rent at a fancy downtown condo.
But on Wednesday he turned his fire on the village, calling the case against him “b-------” and accusing village officials who sued him before the criminal charges were filed last week of trying to make his life hell.
“If they want the marina, they can have it!” he boomed.
Prosecutors have painted Thomas as an incorrigible conman who even tried to rip off his own attorney by paying him with fake Babe Ruth baseballs.
And in allowing Thomas to go home under house arrest last week, U.S. District Judge James Zagel last week placed tight restrictions on Thomas to protect the public from further scams, including banning Thomas from making phone calls and from using the Internet.
But prosecutor Sunil Harjani said Wednesday that since then, Thomas has used his wife’s phone to make at least two phone calls, and that, even though Thomas had turned over his computer to the government, he was still using the Internet connection on his Google TV to send text messages and emails.
Thomas also offered the deeds to two properties he doesn’t own as security for his bond, Harjani alleged — a condo he sold in 2005 and the Riverdale Marina itself, which he said Thomas recently sold for $30,000.
An unimpressed Zagel said he thought his tone of voice last week should have been enough to warn Thomas to behave. He delayed any ruling on changes to the conditions of Thomas’s house arrest until Monday.
Asked after the hearing how he could make a gift of the marina to the village of Riverdale if he has already sold it, as the government alleges, Thomas declined to answer.
As Thomas reddened and loudly railed against a former codefendant he said had falsely accused of him of making the banned phone calls, his attorney, Larry Beaumont, and his wife both urged him to calm down.
“Remember I told you we needed to be like this,” Beaumont said, miming the gentle undulations of a placid lake with his hands.
“Right now you’re doing this,” he added, chopping his hands up and down violently.