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IRS agent links Beavers’ campaign spending to gambling sprees

Updated: April 20, 2013 6:35AM

He paired his dark suit with a sensible tie and haircut and spoke with the monotonous precision of a tax man from central casting.

But IRS Agent Paul Ponzo’s federal court testimony Monday — linking Cook County Commissioner William Beavers’ political campaign funds to repeated and heavy losing gambling sprees at the Horseshoe Casino — made up in potentially damning detail what it lacked in drama.

Beavers — accused of failing to pay taxes on campaign cash he used for personal expenses including gambling — cut himself 100 checks from his campaign funds worth a total of $226,000 between 2006 and 2008, Ponzo said. Of those 100 checks, 93 were cashed within a day of a trip to the Hammond casino.

Jurors heard Friday that Beavers was a big-shot “Seven Star” gambler at the Horseshoe, where he lost $477,000 in three years.

Ponzo conceded Monday that he did not know for certain how Beavers used his campaign cash, telling prosecutor Matthew Getter that “Cash is hard to trace.”

But by flipping between copies of campaign checks and casino records generated every time Beavers slipped his membership card into a one-armed bandit, Ponzo was able to show that the commissioner often dipped into his political fund just minutes before he gambled.

During one such 12-hour-long gambling jag, on April 9, 2007, Beavers cashed a $2,000 check at 12:05 p.m., checked in at the casino at 12:31 p.m. and had lost $2,100 by 1:18 p.m., records showed. Beavers was back at the bank by 2:07 p.m. to cash another $2,000 check, but had lost a further $1,785 by 4:06 p.m. He re-upped again at the bank at 4:33 p.m. before returning to the casino at 4:52 p.m. and staying until just six minutes before midnight, records showed.

At the time, Beavers was carrying more than $30,000 in credit card debt, Ponzo said — a point prosecutors are likely to return to as a possible motive.

Ponzo also compared check stubs from Beavers’ political funds to invoices for yard signs and other legitimate campaign costs in an attempt to show that Beavers was trying to cover his tracks.

One check for $4,000 that Beavers cut himself and cashed just minutes before a casino visit on March 2, 2007, was marked as payable to a print shop. But an invoice for the printing work wasn’t issued for another 10 months, and was in any case covered by another check, Ponzo said, agreeing with Getter that the way Beavers kept his accounts made them “harder to understand.”

The government is expected to conclude its case Tuesday. Judge James Zagel said he hopes the jury can begin deliberating late Wednesday.

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