Rezko 101: The Indictment
By Kevin Robinson in News on Feb 19, 2008 4:06PM
It seems like everybody in town knows Tony Rezko's name. And why not? Besides being under federal indictment, he's a big player in Illinois politics. He's also gotten some national attention, with Former Gov. Jim Edgar musing that Rezko isn't really Obama's problem, and a photo of him with former President Bill Clinton surfacing on the Today show.
So who is Tony Rezko, and why is he under indictment?
Rezko immigrated to Chicago after high school, and he graduated from the Illinois Institute of Technology with degrees in civil engineering and construction management. In the 1980's he began investing in inner-city real estate, securing government loans to rehab and manage that property. He also began raising money for local politicians. By the time Rod Blagojevich became governor in 2002, Rezko had become a powerful player in Illinois politics.
The fraud charges against Tony Rezko center on a string of kickback schemes he allegedly conducted with his partner Stuart Levine, a one-time top GOP fund-raiser. In October 2006 Rezko was charged in a 24-count indictment (PDF) in which the government "alleges that Rezko participated with... Levine in a scheme to obtain millions of dollars by shaking down firms doing business" with the state. U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald called it a "pay-to-play scheme on steroids," a fraudulent conspiracy that included demanding payments from firms that wanted work from the Illinois Teachers Retirement System Board, and companies that wanted favorable rulings from the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board, which regulates hospital developments. Levine served on both of those boards. Around the time Rezko was indicted, Levine reached a plea agreement with federal prosecutors, admitting to conspiring with Rezko to extort firms with business before the state boards. The plea agreement with Levine, who is the government's star witness against Rezko, states that firms were repeatedly told they had to pay the two millions of dollars in kickbacks or their applications would be rejected.
Jury selection is expected to begin March 3.
Image via AP