U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez (top) told the FBI he got free upgrades from Tony Rezko on a riverfront town house he bought (right).
Updated: November 29, 2010 10:22PM
Convicted political fixer Tony Rezko gave U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez free upgrades on a riverfront town house after the congressman asked for them, Gutierrez told the FBI, the Chicago Sun-Times has learned.
Gutierrez's comments to federal agents in a previously undisclosed 2008 interview contradict what the congressman told the Sun-Times in 2006 about the purchase.
"I walked in with my wife -- as any other consumer could have -- and purchased the unit at the listed price, with no considerations," the Northwest Side congressman said then, asserting that he never discussed the deal with Rezko, buying the home through a salesperson at Rezko's company, Rezmar Corp.
He told a different story when questioned by federal agents two years later about the town home he bought in River Walk, a Rezko development along the Chicago River north of Diversey, the Sun-Times has learned.
Gutierrez told them he and his wife had had dinner with Rezko and his wife, sources said, and that he told him that the price of the town home had gone up $35,000 in two weeks -- from $399,000 when they first visited a model home to $434,900.
Considering that the price had risen, Gutierrez told Rezko he thought he should get some upgrades, sources said.
The upgrades eventually included an additional bathroom and higher-quality carpeting, the Sun-Times has learned.
The congressman's explanation came after the FBI asked him why the closing documents for the sale showed no charge for the upgrades, sources said.
Gutierrez told the FBI he didn't know the value of the upgrades and didn't have documents that would show what they were worth, according to the sources.
He also told the agents that he'd bought the unit in Rezko's development to help out his friend because having a congressman living there could give the property a boost, the Sun-Times has learned.
Gutierrez was in Puerto Rico last week. Through his Washington congressional office spokesman, Douglas Rivlin, he declined to answer questions about his FBI interview.
But Rivlin said: "The congressman never received any free 'upgrades' -- or anything else for free -- on his home at River Walk, and certainly never told anyone that he did. Any report that he did is completely false."
The Sun-Times reported in 2006 that Gutierrez got the cheapest price on any of the 17 riverfront town houses in the Rezko development. Others paid $495,000 and $660,000, in some cases for smaller town homes. The congressman sold his unit in March 2006 for $610,000 -- 40 percent more than his purchase price.
Gutierrez was accompanied to the 2008 FBI interview by defense lawyer Michael Deutsch of the People's Law Office.
"I'm not going to go into what was discussed or why," said Deutsch, who said his office has done work with the Puerto Rican community and that Gutierrez has been a "good supporter" of that effort.
It's not clear why the FBI interviewed Gutierrez. The U.S. attorney's office would not comment.
The interview was done in spring 2008. At the time, Rezko was on trial for corruption involving state contracts under then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Rezko, who was a campaign fund-raiser for Blagojevich as well as Gutierrez, was convicted. He's scheduled to be sentenced in January.
A federal investigation into a Chicago developer with ties to Gutierrez was also under way at the time.
Gutierrez has not been charged with any wrongdoing.
He recently decided against running to succeed Mayor Daley. Gutierrez handily won re-election on Nov. 2 to his 10th term in Congress.
Gutierrez has a history of flipping real estate, in some cases in deals involving campaign contributors.
In a deal involving the Galewood Yards development on the West Side, Gutierrez stepped in and, in an unusual move, sat in on a December 2004 meeting with Daley and the since-convicted developer Calvin Boender to pitch a zoning change that financially benefitted Boender. Gutierrez sat in on the meeting after he accepted a $200,000 loan from Boender in relation to a separate real estate investment.
Earlier this year, Gutierrez told the Sun-Times he quickly repaid the loan to Boender, and "I lost money on the venture."