Plea Agreement Said to Accuse IL Governor in Kickback Scheme

September 16, 2005 ( - A plea agreement made by Joseph Cari, former attorney for the Illinois Teachers' Retirement System charged with extortion, is said to accuse Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich and two fundraisers of a scheme to offer pension deals to investment firms and consultants in return for campaign contributions.

According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Blagojevich was not specifically named in the plea, which referred to “Public Official A”.   But, sources confirmed to the newspaper that “Public Official A” is the governor.   The governor denies knowledge of the scheme.

The kickback scheme was said to be directed by former TRS trustee Stuart Levine (See  IL TRS Trustee Charged in Kickback Scheme ).   According to Cari’s plea, Levine told him that “two close associates” of “Public Official A” would “not let an Illinois public pension fund . . . invest in a private equity fund” unless that firm hired a consultant they chose, and that consultant agreed to make “certain political or charitable contributions,” the Sun-Times reports.

Sources confirmed to the Sun-Times that the “two close associates” of the public official were top Blagojevich fundraisers Antoin “Tony” Rezko and Christopher Kelly.   According to the newspaper, records involving Rezko and a consulting firm he ran were requested in a subpoena sent to the TRS (See  IL TRS Subpoenaed In US Attorney’s Investigation ).

The newspaper reports that the scheme discussed in Cari’s agreement is similar to allegations raised earlier this year by Blagojevich’s estranged father-in-law, Chicago Alderman Richard Mell, who accused Kelly of orchestrating appointments to state boards and commissions in exchange for contributions to Blagojevich.   Mell retracted the claim when Kelly threatened a lawsuit, but an investigation into the claim was started by the state’s Attorney General and another state attorney.

Cheryle Jackson, Blagojevich’s communications director, raised doubt to the credibility of Cari’s statements by saying, “This is speculation based on testimony from an admitted extortionist who was told this by someone twice accused of extortion himself.”

Cari entered the plea agreement hoping to receive a break in sentencing (See  Illinois TRS Attorney Pleads Guilty To Making Threat ).