Cicero officials linked to criminals
BY STEVE WARMBIR Staff Reporterfirstname.lastname@example.org April 11, 2011 7:50AM
Updated: September 24, 2012 6:25AM
A local school board president in Cicero has ties to a notorious large-scale drug dealer as well as a ranking member of a motorcycle gang who is a trusted associate of the Chicago mob, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Jeff Pesek, 38, president of the Morton High School District 201 board, which oversees several thousand students from Cicero, Berwyn and other suburbs, has been partners in business with admitted wholesale cocaine dealer Enrique “Henry” Rendon, according to court testimony and documents.
Pesek and his younger brother Craig, 34 — who sits on the town’s library board — were also caught on an FBI listening device in July 2007 discussing the mob-ordered bombing of a Berwyn business in 2003 with the man later convicted of the crime, Mark Polchan. Polchan was the treasurer of the Outlaw motorcycle gang and a key associate of mobster Michael Sarno. The FBI says Sarno ran the Cicero mob crew.
Polchan is heard predicting to the brothers — about a year before he was arrested — that he will be charged in the bombing and asks them if they will post his bond, according to a previously sealed court document obtained by the Sun-Times.
The three men discussed an individual named Kyle Knight, who had already been charged in the bombing.
“Specifically, the three individuals talked about the fact that Knight was already incarcerated for another federal offense . . . and that the ‘feds’ had made Knight an offer for a cooperation deal, however Knight had declined,” according to the court document.
Polchan expressed confusion over why federal agents would arrest Knight but not him.
“They know me absolutely,” Polchan told the Pesek brothers, according to an excerpt of the conversation. “I, I, I just, I cannot believe they indicted the guy and not f------ drag me into it.
“Let’s have a party right now,” Polchan told the brothers.
After his arrest, Polchan never got bond. A federal judge determined he was a danger to the community and a flight risk.
The Peseks’ relationships with the two criminals came to light during testimony at Polchan’s bombing trial late last year, as well as from a once-sealed court document from the investigation. Polchan was convicted at trial and faces a minimum sentence of 30 years in prison.
Neither Pesek has been charged with any crime, nor did either respond to a request for comment.
Polchan, who has been arrested more than a dozen times, worked for several years in security for the Peseks at their popular downtown Chicago nightclub called Ontourage.
Craig Pesek is listed as the sole owner of the nightclub on its liquor license, while Jeff Pesek has helped run it, records show.
But Craig Pesek had other investors he never told the city about, according to court testimony.
Rendon testified under oath that he was a silent partner in Ontourage as well as a liquor store and bar in Cicero that Jeff Pesek bought called Austin Liquors.
At Polchan’s trial, Rendon explained how he and Jeff Pesek started Ontourage.
“Jeff and I basically got Ontourage with basically no money down. We got investors. We built the club,” Rendon testified.
Later, a defense attorney asked Rendon, “And you said, correct me if I’m wrong, that Mr. Pesek put up the money for Austin Liquors?”
“Yes, he did,” Rendon confirmed.
Rendon said he put up no money in the Austin Liquors deal but gave Pesek $500 a week in rent. Rendon testified that he put several mob-owned video gaming devices in the bar.
Jeff Pesek also testified at the trial of Polchan, who was once a close childhood friend. Pesek testified under a grant of immunity from prosecution.
While not discussing it in detail, Jeff Pesek acknowledged in his testimony there were other investors in Ontourage besides his brother Craig.
“My brother is the owner,” the school board president testified. “There was other individuals who helped him out in the beginning, yes.”
“Were they not declared as investors in filings with the City of Chicago?” asked federal prosecutor Amarjeet Bhachu.
“No, there were no other declarations, no,” Jeff Pesek said.
Rendon, who estimated in his testimony that he sold roughly 200 kilos of cocaine, two tons of marijuana and 7 kilos of heroin in his decades-long career as a drug dealer, had high praise for Jeff Pesek.
“He is a good guy,” Rendon testified.
Rendon said it was no secret among people who knew him that he was a drug dealer.
“Everyone knew I did,” Rendon testified.
Rendon was charged in 2009 in federal court for providing drugs to a middleman who in turned sold it to street gangs. He pleaded guilty last year to conspiracy to distribute cocaine, marijuana and heroin and faces 10 to 13 years in prison. In 1996, he was sentenced to six years in state prison after pleading guilty to another drug crime. And in 1999, he was sentenced to three years behind bars for kicking and hitting an off-duty Chicago cop in the face during a fight in the Gold Coast neighborhood.
Rendon and Jeff Pesek have been portrayed in unrelated civil lawsuits as partners in other business ventures as well. Rendon also was listed in court records as one of the people signing a lease for an oil-change shop with Craig Pesek.
Jeff Pesek also testified that he bought between eight and 10 televisions from Polchan, who routinely sold stolen merchandise at his Cicero pawn shop.
Pesek did not address in his testimony whether any of the televisions, for which he paid cash, were stolen, but he indicated that Polchan at one point couldn’t sell him a television after Pesek had come over to buy one.
“He just said the guy that was bringing them got busted,” Pesek testified.
In addition to their businesses, the Peseks have been key players in Cicero politics. The brothers, their family and their companies have contributed or loaned about $100,000 to help elect Cicero Town President Larry Dominick, who campaigned on a reform platform and a promise to end cronyism in town government.
After Dominick was elected in 2005, the brothers were eventually hired as town consultants, earning about $850,000 in fees, according to town records.
Dominick is “very satisfied” with the work that the Peseks have done and believes they are “professionals and dedicated to their work performance,” according to town spokesman Ray Hanania.
Hanania noted that neither Pesek has been accused of wrongdoing, and the information that came to light at trial would have no effect on their employment with the town.
Craig Pesek, a high school graduate who had previously worked at his family’s hot dog restaurant, was hired soon after Dominick was elected to be a project manager at $6,000 a month.
His responsibilities and fees grew as his consulting company was hired to oversee the construction of municipal buildings as well as economic development in the town.
Jeff Pesek went from suing the town in a major lawsuit under the past administration to working for it when Dominick took over as town president.
In 2004, before Dominick was elected, Jeff Pesek filed a lawsuit against the town, contending it was trying to muscle him out of a piece of property in Cicero that he had an interest in.
After Dominick won the town president’s job, the town settled the lawsuit with Jeff Pesek for $1 million, a deal approved in federal court.
Jeff Pesek described his motivation in helping Dominick in a deposition from his 2004 lawsuit against the town.
“I thought I would do anything and everything humanly possible for me and that I would get any and all resources I could to help him win because that’s what I could do for the town of Cicero,” Pesek said.
“That’s what I was going to do to win my lawsuit — not to win my lawsuit, but to — because of my lawsuit,” Pesek said.
Jeff Pesek was hired in October 2008 to be the town’s director of services and recreation as well as Cicero’s safety director at an annual salary of $94,322, according to town records.
The Peseks’ mother, Elaine, was appointed to Dominick’s town literacy office starting in 2006 and has earned more than $38,000 for her service.
Elaine Pesek, a former teacher, helps promote literacy in town. In 2009, Craig Pesek won a seat on the Cicero library board. He is also a state Republican central committeeman. Even though he is a consultant and not a town employee, he has received town health insurance since 2007 because Pesek sits on a town committee.
In a September 2006 interview published in the Town of Cicero newsletter, Craig Pesek expressed appreciation for his job with the town.
“I am grateful to be a part of an administration that truly cares so much about its residents and takes such pride in our town,” Pesek was quoted as saying.
When asked if there was something most people don’t know about him, Craig Pesek said, “If most people don’t know, it’s probably because I want it that way, so let’s keep it that way!”