Four layers for Cellini stories

Staff Writer
Mount Shasta Herald

Patrick J. Fitzgerald, 44, has headed several high-profile prosecutions since becoming U.S. attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, based in Chicago, since 2001. Among them are:

*The Operation Safe Road prosecution of former Gov. George Ryan and others for political bribery and gift-giving. Ryan is serving a 6 1/2-year federal prison sentence.

*Indictments of top aides to Chicago Mayor Richard Daley for mail fraud and illegal city hall hiring practices, as well as an investigation of the city of Chicago’s hired truck program that has netted the convictions of two dozen defendants. Former Chicago City Clerk James Laski also pleaded guilty in 2006 to taking bribes for steering business to two trucking companies.

*Acting as special counsel, Fitzgerald convicted Lewis “Scooter” Libby, Vice President Dick Cheney’s chief of staff, for perjury and obstruction of justice in connection with the illegal public identification of Valerie Plame Wilson as a covert Central Intelligence Agency officer. Libby never went to prison, though, as President Bush commuted his sentence.

Fitzgerald previously was an assistant U.S. attorney in New York. There, he participated in or supervised prosecutions growing out of the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center, a conspiracy to detonate bombs on U.S. airliners in 1994 and 1995, and the trial of organized crime figure John Gambino.

Fitzgerald is a native of Brooklyn, N.Y., and a graduate of Amherst College and Harvard Law School.

Antoin “Tony” Rezko was indicted along with businessman Stuart Levine in 2006 on charges they attempted to extort millions of dollars from businesses seeking to do business with the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System and the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board.

Levine pleaded guilty and agreed to testify against Rezko and others.

After a trial last spring, Rezko was found guilty of 16 of 24 charges. He has been held since then in the Metropolitan Correction Center in Chicago.

Rezko’s sentencing had been scheduled for this past Tuesday, but a judge earlier this month postponed the sentencing hearing - apparently because Rezko was seeking a deal in which he would cooperate with prosecutors.

According to testimony at Rezko’s trial, Bill Cellini of Springfield played a role in an attempt to extort either a kickback or campaign donation from a businessman and movie producer who wanted to invest TRS funds. However, Rezko was acquitted of most of the charges that involved Cellini’s alleged activities.

Cellini is the 13th person charged in the ongoing Operation Board Games investigation.

Major players in Illinois “Operation Board Games” scandal

*Gov. Rod Blagojevich: Apparently “Public Official A” in documents filed by prosecutors in the cases of both Tony Rezko and Bill Cellini. Documents suggest that, in addition to lining their own pockets, some alleged conspirators sought contributions to Blagojevich’s campaign fund.

*Antoin “Tony” Rezko: Developer and fundraiser for Blagojevich. Convicted of trying to engineer a multimillion-dollar kickback scheme after gaining control of the state’s Teachers’ Retirement System and Health Facilities Planning boards.

*Stuart Levine: Former member of the TRS and health facilities boards. Pleaded guilty to scheming to get kickbacks and other payments from companies seeking to do business with those boards.

*Christopher Kelly: Head of Blagojevich’s fundraising operation. He apparently is the person identified by prosecutors as “Co-Conspirator A” in the Cellini indictment and “Individual B” in the indictment of Rezko.

*Jon Bauman: Executive director of the Teachers’ Retirement System, identified as “TRS Staffer A” in Cellini indictment. Prosecutors have said Bauman pressured TRS staff to conduct favorable reviews of investment firms chosen by Levine and others to receive TRS money. Bauman denies it and has not been charged with any wrongdoing.

*Robert Kjellander: Springfield resident who runs a consulting firm. Worked with Levine and other board members to get TRS investment business for the Carlyle Group, which was represented by Kjellander and Cellini. Kjellander got a hefty fee after Carlyle landed the work. Has not been charged with wrongdoing.

*Tom Rosenberg: Movie producer and principal in a firm that wanted to participate in TRS investments. However, Rosenberg refused alleged kickback demand in return. As a result, prosecutors say, Rezko, Levine and others ultimately gave in and OK’d an allocation of TRS funds to Rosenberg’s firm.

*Joseph Cari: Attorney and fundraiser for the Democratic National Committee. Pleaded guilty to attempted extortion.

Created in 1939, the Illinois Teachers’ Retirement System administers pension benefits for public school educators outside the city of Chicago. The system employs about 170 people.

It counts more than 357,000 members, including nearly 161,000 active members, more than 91,000 retirees and beneficiaries and about 105,000 inactive members. The average annuity is about $41,500 a year.

As of Sept. 30, the system had $34.1 billion in assets. Funding for TRS comes from the state, teacher contributions and from investments. Teachers contribute 9.4 percent of their salaries.

TRS operations are overseen by an 11-member board. That includes the state superintendent of education, four members appointed by the governor, four selected by active teachers and two selected by retired teachers.