Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, others, indicted on 19 counts

April 3rd, 2009 - 9:18 am ICT by admin  

Chicago, ILLINOIS (BNO NEWS) — Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, his brother, two former top aides and two businessmen have been indicted on federal corruption charges alleging pervasive fraud, BNO News confirms.

“Since 2002, even before he was first elected governor that November, and continuing until he was arrested on Dec. 29, 2008, former Illinois Gov. Rod R. Blagojevich and a circle of his closest aides and advisors allegedly engaged in a wide-ranging scheme to deprive the people of Illinois of honest government,” the United States Attorney’s Office said in a press release which follows an ongoing political corruption scandal involving top officials in the state of Illinois.

A federal grand jury returned a 19-count indictment in which Blagojevich was charged with 16 felony counts, including racketeering conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion conspiracy, attempted extortion and making false statements to federal agents.

The former governor, who was ousted from office in January, is accused of using his office in numerous matters which involve state appointments, business, legislation and pension fund investments to seek or obtain such financial benefits as money, campaign contributions and employment for himself and others, in exchange for official actions, including trying to leverage his authority to appoint a United States Senator.

In the same indictment, Blagojevich’s former chief of staff, John Harris, was also charged on some of the counts. Harris, who served as chief of staff from late 2005 until late December, has been charged with a single count of wire fraud. Harris has agreed to cooperate with the United States Attorney’s Office in the prosecution of the case, his lawyer said.

Alonzo Monk, who is a lobbyist doing business as AM3 Consulting, Ltd. and a long-time associate of Blagojevich, has been charged with one count of wire fraud. Monk served as Blagojevich’s general counsel when he represented Illinois’ Fifth Congressional District, among other positions which include chairman of his campaign fund.

Rod Blagojevich’s brother, Robert, has been charged with two counts of wire fraud. Robert Blagojevich became chairman of his brother’s campaign fund in August 2008.

Christopher Kelly, a businessman and a principal campaign fundraiser who also served as chairman of Blagojevich’s campaign fund from early 2004 until 2005, has been charged with racketeering conspiracy, fraud conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion. Kelly was indicted on one count for each of those.

William F. Cellini, Sr. was charged with fraud conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and attempted extortion. Cellini is a businessman who raised significant funds for Rod Blagojevich, partly through his role as the executive director of the Illinois Asphalt Pavement Association.

All six defendants are expected to be arraigned soon, on dates yet to be determined by U.S. District Judge James B. Zagel in Chicago’s Federal Court. According to the documents, Blagojevich was charged with 11 counts of wire fraud, two counts of attempted extortion, and one count each of racketeering conspiracy, extortion conspiracy and making false statements. He faces up to 325 years in prison if convicted.

The charges are part of “Operation Board Games”, a continuing public corruption investigation of pay-to-play schemes, including insider-dealing, influence-peddling and kickbacks involving private interests and public duties. The operation began in 2003 and has so far resulted in charges against 17 defendants.

Today’s indictment adds several new allegations to those that were lodged in the criminal complaint filed in December when Gov. Blagojevich and his chief of staff, Harris, were arrested. It includes the previous factual allegations that Blagojevich conspired to sell or trade Barack Obama’s U.S. Senate seat after he was elected President. Blagojevich is also accused of threatening to withhold substantial state assistance to the Tribune Company in connection with the sale of Wrigley Field to induce the firing of Chicago Tribune editorial board members who were “sharply critical” of Blagojevich. He is also suspected to obtain campaign contributions in exchange for official actions, both historically and in a push late 2008 before a new state ethics law took effect.

Among new factual allegations in the indictment are that, beginning in 2002 and continuing after Blagojevich was first elected governor, that Blagojevich and Monk, along with Kelly and previously convicted co-schemer Antoin “Tony” Rezko, agreed that they would use the offices of the governor and chief of staff for financial gain, which would be dived among them with the understanding that the money would be distributed after Blagojevich left public office.

In 2003, Blagojevihc, Monk, Kelly, Rezko and other co-schemers implemented this agreement by directing lucrative state business relating to the refinancing of billions of dollars in State of Illinois Pensions Obligation Bonds to a company whose lobbyist agreed to provide hundreds of thousands of dollars to Rezko out of the fee the lobbyist would collect, and Rezko in turn agreed to split the money with Blagojevich, Monk and Kelly.

After Kelly and Rezko ceased to play a significant role in raising campaign funds and it became public that they were under investigation, Blagojevich personally continued to trade his actions as governor for personal benefits. For instance, the former governor delayed a state grant to a publicly-supported school while trying to leverage a U.S. Congressman, who supported the school, or the Congressman┬┤s brother, to hold a campaign fundraiser for Blagojevich.

Blagojevich is also charged with making false statements. In an interview on March 16, 2005, he lied to FBI agents when he said that he maintains a separation, or `firewall`, between politics and state business and that he does not track, or want to know, who contributes to him or how much they are contributing to him.

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