Chicago Real Estate Developer Sentenced on Corruption Charges

November 22, 2011

A former Chicago real estate developer and political fundraiser for ousted governor Rod Blagojevich has been sentenced to more than 10 years in prison.

Tony Rezko, the man who helped unveil Illinois’ “pay-to-play” political scandal, was convicted in 2008 on corruption charges including fraud, money laundering and trying to get money out of firms wanting to do business with the state.

Tony Rezko

Rezko, 56, was sentenced on Tuesday to 10½ years in jail, though he will get credit for the 3½ years he has already served.

Prosecutors were looking for a prison term between 11 and 15 years. His lawyers were hoping the judge would consider the time he served as enough.

Instead, U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, who said the defendant’s schemes exceeded $9.6 million in losses, made an example of Rezko, saying that public corruption in Illinois must stop.

“Your selfish and corrupt actions negatively impacted the trust of the citizens of Illinois in their government,” said St. Eve in court.

“The sentence will send a message that enough is enough.”

Rezko was once a fast-food developer — he reportedly opened the first Subway in Chicago — and a prominent Chicago real estate developer who invested in low-income housing. He was not only a political fundraiser for Blagojevich but also for President Barack Obama during his Illinois state Senate campaigns. No wrongdoings were ever uncovered with that relationship.

During Blagojevich’s reign as governor, Rezko plotted to squeeze $7 million in kickbacks from businesses that want to work with Illinois. Six months after Rezko’s conviction in 2008, Blagojevich was arrested for trying to sell or trade Obama’s old Senate seat.

Today’s verdict could be an indication of what the former governor will get next month, when Blagojevich is sentenced on 17 political corruption counts. That sentencing is scheduled for December 6. Stay tuned.

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