Wealthy fundraiser for Jesse Jackson Jr., Blago gets 2 years in prison
BY KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter February 10, 2014 1:42PM
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: March 12, 2014 6:16AM
As a multimillionaire political fundraiser, Raghuveer Nayak was once invited to a signing ceremony at the White House.
Now he’ll get to be an insider at another kind of federal big house.
For two years — whether he likes it or not.
Nayak, who reveled in the reflected glory of helping to bankroll the careers of Jesse Jackson Jr. and Rod Blagojevich, was ordered on Monday to join the disgraced pair behind bars for operating a decadelong health care scam.
Sentencing Nayak to two years in prison, plus a $500,000 fine, U.S. District Court Judge Robert Gettleman said the 59-year-old pharmacist and surgery center owner seriously “corrupted the doctor-patient relationship.”
By paying bribes to doctors to refer patients to his surgery centers, Nayak, an Indian immigrant who lives in Oak Brook, damaged “the honesty that we all rely on” from physicians, the judge said.
Though Nayak’s charges were relatively run-of-the-mill and all related to his medical treatment businesses, his case attracted wider interest because of his alleged role in Jackson’s alleged attempt to buy President Barack Obama’s former Senate seat from Blagojevich in 2008.
Nayak was “the bribe guy” who offered to pay the former governor to secure the seat for Jackson, prosecutors said at Blagojevich’s second trial.
On Monday, Nayak cut a pathetic figure as he apologized in court, telling the judge he was so scared of what would now happen to him that he was “scared to drink a cup of coffee” in case the government used it against him.
“I’m scared of the government,” he said as he stood before Gettleman in a green pinstripe suit. “I just want to die.”
Nayak’s attorney Thomas McQueen said that Nayak had gone into a “downward spiral into alcoholism” since his indictment, successfully arguing for a lenient sentence of 18 to 24 months.
Prosecutors had wanted Nayak jailed for up to six years, but the booze claims could prove significant because federal prisoners who qualify for and complete alcohol treatment behind bars can have their sentences reduced further still.
Gettleman said it was “disturbing” that most of the doctors who admitted taking bribes from Nayak in return for guarantees of immunity from prosecution are still practicing and have not been sanctioned by the state.
He noted that the practice of paying bribes in return for patients appeared to be “widespread” and “was not invented by Mr. Nayak.”
Monday’s hearing was the culmination of a drawn-out sentencing process that included lengthy testimony from Nayak’s former pal, Rajinder Bedi, the alleged “emissary” who helped set up the deal for Obama’s Senate seat.
After Bedi endured a torrid time on the stand, prosecutors last week abandoned their reliance on Bedi’s claims that Nayak cheated on his taxes through a kickback scheme.
Blagojevich’s lawyers said at the time that they hoped the doubt cast on Bedi’s testimony might help the former governor’s appeal because Bedi also was a key witness against Blagojevich.
But when McQueen on Monday tried to distance Nayak from the Senate seat scandal, prosecutor Carrie Hamilton revealed that Nayak in 2008 and 2009 gave interviews to the FBI in which he implicated himself in the Senate seat scheme.
Those interviews include details of the proposed Senate seat deal that still have not been made public, McQueen said.