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Defendant in Blagojevich probe gets 27 month sentence

2001 Award CelebratiAmericIsrael Chamber Commerce with Former President Bill Clintcenter  (front row from left) Sandy Jacob Kiferbaum.

2001 Award Celebration of the America Israel Chamber of Commerce with Former President Bill Clinton, center, and (front row, from left) Sandy and Jacob Kiferbaum.

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Updated: September 3, 2013 6:58AM

A judge lamented Illinois’ culture of corruption Wednesday as he sentenced the last remaining defendant in the federal probe that brought down former Gov. Rod Blagojevich to 27 months in prison.

U.S. District Judge John F. Grady said that he wished he could “be more sanguine” about the likely effect of the sentence he imposed on construction firm owner Jacob Kiferbaum.

But he said, “We live in a state, unfortunately, that is afflicted by political corruption and has been for as long as most of us can remember.”

Kiferbaum, 61, was one of the first dominoes to fall in the decade-long Operation Board Games probe that eventually snared Blagojevich. His early cooperation and guilty plea more than eight years ago to shaking down Edward Hospital in Naperville helped prosecutors build a case against Blagojevich fund-raiser Stuart Levine, whose later cooperation was key to the former governor’s conviction.

The Glencoe businessman made a tearful plea for mercy Wednesday, telling Grady, “I’ll never forgive myself for what I did to my family,” adding that he was sorry for “the poor choices” he made when he and Levine extorted Edward and two other hospitals into handing him lucrative contracts.

In a letter to the judge, he described how he had built his business into a huge success after arriving in Chicago in 1974 as a 22-year-old Israeli Army veteran with just $72 in his pocket.

But his attorney James Streicker told Grady that though Kiferbaum was a “big boy,” he’d become “intoxicated” by the access to power and contracts that Levine offered him.

Hospital administrators Kiferbaum shook down knew Levine would use his position on the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board to block any construction projects unless Kiferbaum’s business got the contract — a favor Kiferbaum admits he repaid by kicking back millions of dollars to Levine.

Grady said he believed Kiferbaum felt “genuine sorrow” for his crimes and was “not just sorry he got caught,” but added that Kiferbaum was motivated more by greed than he’d admitted.

Though federal sentencing guidelines suggested a 46 to 57 month prison term was appropriate, Grady imposed the 27-month prison term and $250,000 fine that prosecutors agreed to ask for in return for what they called Kiferbaum’s “critical” help.

Under his deal with the government, Kiferbaum has already paid back $7 million in profits he extorted.

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