Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Bad news for Rezko and Blagojevich: Ali Ata pleads guilty

The big political news tonight is of course Hillary Clinton's convincing win in Pennsylvania. Meanwhile in Illinois, news of corruption didn't take the day off. And there is big news tonight, the bad kind, however, if you are Governor Rod Blagojevich or his pal, Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

A former top official in Gov. Blagojevich's administration pleaded guilty to federal charges this afternoon and leveled some of the most significant accusations yet against the governor.

Ali Ata said in his plea deal that the governor offered him a top administrative position in state government in exchange for Ata's tens of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions.

He pleaded guilty to lying to federal law enforcement officials and to one tax count. Ata will be cooperating with federal prosecutors as part of the plea deal.

Blagojevich has not been accused of a crime, but man...the Chicago Democrat is probably not going to sleep well tonight. Or tomorrow night.


Ata subsequently was appointed executive director of the Illinois Finance Authority, a $127,000-a-year state job. The authority, which Blagojevich created in 2004, has provided $11 billion in funding for 780 projects.

And some more...

According to the charges against him, Ata, while executive director of the state finance agency, signed a letter bearing the agency's name to help Rezko fraudulently secure $10 million in loans. Prosecutors said he did so at the request of Rezko to make it appear that an investor had partial state backing for a deal to acquire two groups of Rezko's Papa John's pizza restaurants in Chicago and Milwaukee.

Until this afternoon's guilty plea, Ata, of southwestern suburban Lemont, was a cofendedant in a separate fraud indictment involving those pizza restaurants.

Which means for Rezko, after his current trial is over, win or lose, he faces another one.

And for Governor Blagojevich, as well as for Barack Obama, that means a lot of headaches are coming.

Ata contributed $5,000 to Obama's Senate campaign in 2003, which the campaign donated to charity a couple of days after Ata's indictment last year. It's not believed Obama and Ata know each other.

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