No extra prison time for Rezko in business fraud case
BY LAUREN FITZPATRICK Sun-Times Media firstname.lastname@example.org December 22, 2011 12:18PM
Antoin "Tony" Rezko is shown in this June 4, 2008 file photo.
Updated: January 24, 2012 8:15AM
Convicted political fundraiser and businessman Antoin “Tony” Rezko will not spend any extra time in federal prison for a business fraud scheme after agreeing not to appeal his conviction in the case — or his conviction in a wider-ranging political corruption case.
U.S. District Judge James P. Zagel sentenced Rezko Thursday to 7½ years on charges he schemed to get a fraudulent loan to prop up his Papa John’s Pizza franchises in Illinois and Michigan.
But Zagel agreed to make the sentence concurrent with a 10½-year prison term Rezko received last month for corrupting state boards and state government under former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
That means every day Rezko spends in prison will count toward both sentences.
Rezko pleaded guilty last year to conspiring with businessman Abdelhamid “Al” Chaib to land a fraudulent $2.6 million loan from GE Capital for the pizza businesses. The single count of wire fraud carried a possible maximum sentence of 20 years, plus heavy fines. He had to enter a new plea Thursday to the same charge and facts.
As he did last month when sentenced in the bigger case, Rezko apologized and asked for mercy Thursday.
“Your honor I deeply regret the actions that led me to be here today,” Rezko said.
Clad in prison scrubs and orange rubber clogs, he apologized to Zagel, and his friends and family gathered in the courtroom.
“I ask God for forgiveness and the court for mercy.”
Zagel chided Rezko for ruining the life of one unnamed codefendant “who is and was in my opinion an honorable man entangled by you in a criminal scheme which inflicted a terrible price on him.”
Then the judge ordered Rezko to pay $4.1 restitution. Prosecutors indicated that he’d begun paying some of it back.
Rezko’s attorney, Joseph Duffy, said prosecutors told him they wanted 15 total years for Rezko in his first case, and if U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve didn’t give him that, “they would go to Judge Zagel and ask him to make up the difference.”
But because Rezko agreed not to appeal either case, prosecutors agreed to Thursday’s concurrent sentence.
“Mr. Rezko and his family had decided they wanted to bring closure to this matter and it’s time to move on with their lives. And that’s why we entered into the agreement,” he said.
Rezko, a shell of his former self, remains in the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Chicago. Zagel agreed with his attorneys’ request to recommend that Rezko be sent to a federal prison in Pekin, Ill., near Peoria.
Chaib also pleaded guilty in the case and was sentenced to three years probation. Now the chief operating officer of Panda Restaurant Group, Chaib also repaid the $2.6 million loan.
In November, St. Eve sentenced Rezko, the one-time top fund-raiser to Rod Blagojevich and former friend of Barack Obama, to the longer term for his 2008 conviction on 16 of 24 counts, including bribery, fraud and money laundering.
St. Eve said Rezko plotted to take more than $9.6 million in kickbacks from firms seeking state business.