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With Rod Blagojevich convicted, others now face sentencing

Rod Blagojevich enters car after attending his corruptiretrial Dirksen Federal Building Thursday June 2 2011 Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

Rod Blagojevich enters a car after attending his corruption retrial at the Dirksen Federal Building Thursday, June 2, 2011, in Chicago. | John J. Kim~Sun-Times

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Updated: November 16, 2011 1:28AM



Former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s conviction and scheduled Oct. 6 sentencing means that others snared in the federal corruption investigation dubbed “Operation Board Games” will now see their cases move toward a conclusion, some of them after being on hold for years.

For those who’ve pleaded guilty, it means learning what price they’ll have to pay for their crimes.

Just last week, U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve spared onetime Democratic Party fund-raiser Joseph A. Cari Jr. from prison. Instead, she sentenced Cari to three years of probation for his role in a failed scheme in 2004 to extort an investment company that sought pension-investment business from Blagojevich’s administration.

Cari had pleaded guilty nearly six years ago to attempted extortion and has cooperated with prosecutors.

He’s among 17 people who were charged in Operation Board Games. So far, charges have been dropped against only one of the defendants — Robert Blagojevich, the former governor’s brother.

Another former Blagojevich insider — Christopher G. Kelly, a top adviser and campaign fund-raiser — committed suicide in September 2009, shortly before he was scheduled to turn himself in to begin a prison sentence.

In addition to the 17 charged in the Board Games investigation, five others with close ties to the former governor or his administration have pleaded guilty to or are continuing to fight criminal charges.

Here’s a rundown of where the cases stand:

Stuart P. Levine, 65

Indicted: May 9, 2005

Pleaded guilty: Oct. 27, 2006

Levine — a top Republican fund-raiser turned Blagojevich campaign contributor — admitted using his appointment to two Illinois state boards to mastermind multimillion-dollar extortion schemes designed to enrich himself, Blagojevich adviser Tony Rezko and others. Levine, a former Highland Park resident now living in Skokie, used another board post — with the former Chicago Medical School, a private institution — to skim millions from construction deals the school gave to Jacob Kiferbaum.

Status: Awaiting sentencing.

P. Nicholas Hurtgen, 48

Indicted: May 9, 2005

Pleaded guilty: Feb. 25, 2009

Withdrawal of guilty plea: July 7, 2010

A onetime investment banker with Bear Stearns, Hurtgen, a Glencoe resident, had pleaded guilty to helping Levine defraud Illinois taxpayers by passing word to executives from Edward Hospital in Naperville that approval of a proposed Edward medical center would be blocked by Levine — then a member of the state’s hospital-construction board — unless the hospital hired Kiferbaum to build the project, which Bear Stearns hoped to finance.

Status: Withdrew his guilty plea after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling narrowed the scope of the federal honest-services fraud law. Prosecutors later dropped six of the seven charges Hurtgen faced, and a judge is hearing arguments about whether to drop the lone remaining charge.

Jacob Kiferbaum, 59

Indicted: May 9, 2005

Pleaded guilty: June 20, 2005

Kiferbaum, a onetime construction magnate also from Glencoe, admitted participating in Levine’s hospital-related schemes.

Status: Awaiting sentencing.

John Glennon, 59

Indicted: July 20, 2005

Pleaded guilty: Nov. 19, 2007

A former adviser to now-imprisoned ex-Gov. George Ryan, Glennon, a Lake Forest resident, admitted covering up kickbacks between Levine and Kiferbaum.

Status: Awaiting sentencing.

Steven L. Loren, 56

Indicted: Aug. 3, 2005

Pleaded guilty: Sept. 15, 2005

Loren — a now-disbarred attorney from Highland Park — worked for the Teachers Retirement System of Illinois, another state board controlled by Levine. Loren was involved in the attempted extortion of an investment firm that sought business from the teacher-pension fund.

Status: Awaiting sentencing.

Tony Rezko, 56

Indicted: Oct. 5, 2006

Found guilty: June 4, 2008

Rezko — a former top fund-raiser for Democrats including Blagojevich and President Barack Obama — was found guilty of conspiring with Levine and using his influence with Blagojevich to illegally profit off state deals.

Status: Awaiting sentencing — but voluntarily turned himself in and has been in federal custody since his conviction.

Edward R. Vrdolyak, 73

Indicted: May 10, 2007

Pleaded guilty: Nov. 3, 2008

Vrdolyak — a former 10th ward alderman who was a Levine business associate — admitted conspiring to commit mail fraud involving the sale of a building owned by the old Chicago Medical School, where Levine was a board member.

Status: Sentenced last October to 10 months in prison. Scheduled for release in mid-November.

Ali D. Ata, 59

Indicted: Dec. 13, 2007

Pleaded guilty: April 22, 2008

Ata pleaded guilty to failing to report $1.2 million in income from a development deal involving Rezko. Ata, a Lemont resident, also admitted lying to the FBI when he said he didn’t get anything in return for his contributions to Blagojevich’s campaign fund. Ata testified at Rezko’s trial that the money he gave Blagojevich was pivotal in his landing a six-figure state job as the head of the Illinois Finance Authority, an agency Blagojevich created.

Status: Awaiting sentencing.

Abdelhamid Chaib, 57

Indicted: Dec. 13, 2007

Pleaded guilty: July 27, 2010

Chaib — a Burr Ridge resident who was Rezko’s partner in restaurant chains — admitted “attempting to interfere with the administration of internal revenue laws” by mischaracterizing multimillion-dollar business transactions involving Rezko. At Rezko’s urging, Blagojevich had appointed Chaib’s wife to a $15,000-a-year seat on a state board.

Status: Sentenced to three years of probation on Oct. 19, 2010, and ordered to pay a $50,000 fine.

Dr. Robert J. Weinstein, 66

Indicted: June 26, 2008

Pleaded guilty: March 10, 2009

Weinstein — a Northbrook and Delray Beach, Fla., resident who was a longtime Levine business partner and friend — admitted he fraudulently siphoned $6 million from a North Shore charity he created and split the money with Levine.

Status: Sentenced in July 2009 to 18 months in prison; released Jan. 19, 2011.

William F. Cellini, 76

Indicted: Oct. 30, 2008

Cellini — a Springfield businessman and longtime political power broker who’s made a fortune off state deals — is accused of scheming with Levine, Rezko and Kelly to extort a Hollywood movie producer by demanding $1.5 million in campaign cash for Blagojevich in exchange for the producer’s investment firm getting state pension business.

Status: Trial scheduled for Oct. 3.

John Harris, 49

Arrested: Dec. 9, 2008

Pleaded guilty: July 8, 2009

Harris — who was Blagojevich’s chief of staff and, before that, was the city of Chicago’s budget director for then-Mayor Richard M. Daley — pleaded guilty to trying to help Blagojevich sell the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Obama.

Status: Awaiting sentencing.

Alonzo ‘Lon’ Monk, 52

Indicted: April 2, 2009

Pleaded guilty: Oct. 20, 2009

Monk — another former Blagojevich chief of staff — pleaded guilty to mail fraud, admitting that he schemed with Blagojevich to get rich off state deals and split the money with Rezko and Kelly.

Status: Awaiting sentencing.

Anita Mahajan, 60

Charged: March 7, 2007

A Chicago drug-testing company owned by Mahajan allegedly bilked taxpayers out of $2.1 million by overbilling on state contracts. Her husband, banker Amrish Mahajan, contributed $10,000 to Blagojevich’s campaign fund. The Mahajans were involved in property deals in which the former governor’s wife, Patti Blagojevich, got a total of $113,000 in real estate commissions.

Status: Pending.

Robert C. Blum, 58

Charged: April 7, 2009, in Cook County circuit court; April 13, 2010 in federal court

Pleaded guilty: March 8, 2011, on state charges; Aug. 18, 2010, on federal charges

Blum — a longtime business associate of Kelly whose Markham-based Castle Construction business was given numerous government contracts — admitted to tax fraud in federal court and minority-contracting fraud in state court.

Status: Began serving a two-year federal prison sentence in May and was ordered to pay more than $2.1 million in restitution. Sentenced to probation on the state charges.

Frank Schmidt, 41

Charged: Aug. 30, 2010

Pleaded guilty: July 20, 2011

Schmidt — a Glenview resident and cousin of Blagojevich’s late mother-in-law — pleaded guilty to tax evasion involving income from a Joliet landfill he once owned. Blagojevich’s decision to temporarily shut down Schmidt’s business in 2005 sparked a bitter feud between Blagojevich and his powerful father-in-law, Ald. Richard Mell (33rd), a Schmidt mentor.

Status: To be sentenced Oct. 26.

Bamani Obadele, 39

Charged: Sept. 21, 2010

Pleaded guilty: Oct. 5, 2010

Obadele — a Chicago minister and community activist who, as a teen, shined Blagojevich’s shoes — was hired by Blagojevich in 2003 as a deputy director for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services. He later pleaded guilty to directing DCFS contractors to buy promotional items and do business with companies he secretly owned.

Status: Began serving a six-month prison term last month and was ordered to pay $84,469 in restitution. Scheduled for release in early January.

Daniel T. Frawley, 60

Charged: Jan. 26, 2011

Pleaded guilty: Feb. 14, 2011

Frawley — a onetime Chicago cop who once teamed with Rezko in a failed effort to open a taxpayer-subsidized training school for Iraqi security forces in western Illinois — admitted to bank fraud involving other business dealings.

Status: Sentencing scheduled for Aug. 24.



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