By Amrutha Gayathri
Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko arrives at the Dirksen Federal Courthouse in Chicago May 12,Â 2008 for the closing arguments in his corruption trial. The former Democratic and Republican fundraiser was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison, on Nov. 22, 2011, after a U.S. judge found him guilty of corruption and extortion.
A former Chicago fundraiser for President Obama, Antoin “Tony” Rezko, was sentenced to ten and a half years in prison after a U.S. judge found him guilty of corruption and extortion.
Rezko, an Assyrian-American businessman, political fundraiser, restaurateur, and real estate developer, was convicted on several counts of fraud and bribery in 2008. He pleaded not guilty on the charges and was found guilty of 16 of the total 24 counts.
“Enough is enough. Corruption in Illinois has to stop,” said U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve, in handing down the sentence to 56-year-old Rezko.
Rezko had been fundraising for Democratic and Republican politicians since the 1980s. He and his partner, Republican fundraiser Stuart Levine, allegedly misused their relationships with then-Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and other high profile government officials by demanding bribes for setting up business with the state. Levine, who pled guilty, testified as chief eyewitness against Rezko and implicated Blagojevich in the trial.
Rezko was one of the key people on Obama’s 2004 U.S. Senate campaign finance committee, which raised more than $14 million, starting 2003.
According to a Chicago Tribune report, Obama purchased a new home in the Kenwood district of Chicago, in 2005, for $1.65 million which was $300,000 below the asking price but represented the highest offer on the property. On the same day that Rezko’s wife, Rita Rezko, bought the neighboring empty property from the same sellers for the full asking price. However, Obama denied a coordinated purchase deal, but acknowledged that he had discussed with Rezko his interest in buying the house.
In 2006, after it was reported that Rezko’s business deals were being investigated, Obama purchased a small portion of Rezko’s wife’s property, paying her $60,000 above the assessed market value, thereby making her property look less attractive for development. Obama acknowledged that the exchange may have created the appearance of impropriety, where Rezko helped Obama buy an expensive property which he couldn’t afford initially, and stated “I consider this a mistake on my part and I regret it,” the Chicago-Sun Times reported.
In 2007, it was reported that Obama supported Rezko in his senior citizen development project, which Rezko’s attorney denied, saying: “Mr. Rezko never spoke with, nor sought a letter from, Senator Obama in connection with that project.”
The Los Angeles Times, in 2008, reported that according to their review, Rezko played a deeper role in Obama’s political and financial biography than Obama had acknowledged. Around the same time, Hillary Clinton alleged that Obama had close connections with the tainted businessman Rezko. However, within days of her allegation a photo of Rezko posing with Bill and Hillary Clinton surfaced. But Hillary Clinton denied any relationship with Rezko and said: “I probably have taken hundreds of thousands of pictures. I wouldn’t know him if he walked in the door.”
When Rezko was convicted, Obama said he was “saddened” and added, “This isn’t the Tony Rezko I knew.”
Rezko has already spent 44 months in prison, awaiting the judgment and has only 6 years and 10 months left to serve the sentence.