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Prosecutors rest case vs. County Commissioner William Beavers

Updated: April 21, 2013 6:44AM

After a federal tax inspector spent most of Tuesday defending his probe of William Beavers’ accounts, prosecutors rested their case against the Cook County commissioner — setting the stage for closing arguments Wednesday afternoon in the 78-year-old’s tax-fraud trial.

Accused of cheating on his taxes from 2006 to 2008, Beavers has insisted in the run-up to his trial that he’s being unfairly targeted for refusing to wear a wire against fellow Commissioner John Daley.

Most of Tuesday’s testimony, though, came from IRS Agent Paul Ponzo, who previously linked hundreds of thousands of dollars Beavers took from his political campaign funds —and paid no taxes on — to a series of heavy gambling losses he suffered at the Horseshoe Casino in Hammond.

Beavers insists the withdrawals were tax-exempt loans he later paid back. But taking the stand for a second day, Ponzo said just 25 of the 100 campaign-fund checks Beavers cashed were reimbursed, according to check stubs kept by Beavers’ campaign treasurer.

And Ponzo said he looked at all of Beavers’ financial records to try to account for $226,000 Beavers cashed from campaign funds. Even when he took Beavers’ most suspicious accounting practices “at face value” and included receipts that Beavers’ failed to report — including cartons of cigarettes, liquor-store runs and fast-food meals — Ponzo said he still couldn’t explain what happened to more than $30,000 of the campaign cash.

In an attempt to punch holes in the government’s case during cross-examination, Beavers’ attorney Aaron Goldstein noted that Ponzo’s calculations showed Beavers paid back 86 percent of the campaign cash.

He accused Ponzo of failing to credit Beavers with $35,000 in legitimate campaign expenses and repayments — in effect suggesting that instead of prosecuting Beavers, the government should pay him a tax refund.

The government’s case concluded with evidence from IRS Agent Nathan Sarnacki, who said he timed himself as he drove between banks where Beavers cashed campaign checks and the Horseshoe Casino. The times fit neatly with time-stamped bank records and casino records of Beavers’ gambling, Sarnacki said, bolstering prosecutors’ allegation that Beavers used campaign funds for personal use.

After conferring with defense attorneys, Judge James Zagel said he expected jurors would hear closing arguments Wednesday afternoon — a possible sign that Beavers may be wavering on his earlier vow to testify.

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