A federal judge on Wednesday froze more than $100,000 belonging to Antoin "Tony" Rezko, saying the money may be needed if she orders the prominent political fundraiser to forfeit a big chunk of his assets as punishment for masterminding political corruption.
"There is a substantial probability that the United States will prevail in its request for entry of a money judgment against the defendant," U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve, who presided at Rezko's trial, said in her order freezing the money.
Rezko, a major fundraiser for Democratic Gov. Rod Blagojevich and Sen. Barack Obama, was convicted in June of mail fraud, wire fraud, aiding and abetting bribery, and attempted extortion. Neither Blagojevich nor Obama are accused of wrongdoing in the case.
Prosecutors said Rezko used clout with Blagojevich's administration to launch a $7 million fraud scheme designed to squeeze kickbacks out of a contractor and money management firms seeking to do business with a state pension fund. The governor was not charged with wrongdoing.
The results of the scheme
Rezko and his allies never pocketed anything resembling $7 million as a result of the scheme, partly because FBI agents intervened. But St. Eve said Wednesday that the government proved the scheme resulted in at least $250,000 in proceeds, the amount prosecutors want Rezko to forfeit.
Before trial, Rezko posted $380,207 in cash as part of his bond. But much of the $8 million bond was secured by dozens of separate pieces of real estate posted by family and friends.
St. Eve said $275,000 was sent to the Chicago law firm that represented him, Stetler & Duffy Ltd. Defense attorneys Joseph Duffy and William Ziegelmueller did not return a call Wednesday seeking comment.
St. Eve said the clerk of the court would keep the remaining $105,207 and not dispense it to Rezko or members of his family.
"If no action is taken with respect to the funds and they are released, they may not be available for forfeiture," St. Eve said.
Rezko filed a financial statement for the court in 2006 that said he was $50 million in debt.
His sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 28. Some of the charges carry a maximum sentence of 20 years each, although Rezko recently has been quietly visiting the federal courthouse, setting off speculation that he may be spilling secrets to prosecutors in return for leniency.
The attorneys and law enforcement officials who confirmed the visits spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because of the secrecy of grand jury proceedings.