Indicted political fundraiser Rezko arrested

January 28, 2008 10:48:26 AM PST
Indicted businessman Antoin "Tony" Rezko, who has raised thousands of dollars for Barack Obama and other Illinois politicians, was arrested Monday for what federal officials described as a violation of his $2 million bond. The U.S. Attorney's office and FBI Special Agent Tom Simon confirmed the real estate developer and fast food magnate's arrest at his home in suburban Wilmette. A hearing on whether to revoke Rezko's bond was set for Monday afternoon.

Federal officials declined to discuss specifics of the alleged bond violation.

After his arrest, Rezko sat reading at a defense table in U.S. District Judge Amy J. St. Eve's courtroom, watched by two FBI agents who refused to comment. The agents said reporters could not speak with Rezko because he was "in custody."

The court was then closed to reporters until an afternoon hearing in the case.

Rezko attorney Joseph Duffy appeared in court early Monday for a brief hearing that was continued to later in the day. Duffy left court saying he needed to get more information about the allegations.

Rezko has pleaded not guilty to charges of fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering, and is scheduled to stand trial Feb. 25.

Rezko had long been a fundraiser for Obama. The Democratic presidential candidate and senator from Illinois has said he had no indication of problems with Rezko when he accepted thousands of dollars in campaign contributions. When prosecutors unsealed their charges against Rezko in 2006, Obama gave $11,500 in Rezko contributions to charities.

Obama has since sought to distance himself from Rezko, even as his main Democratic rival - Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton - invoked Rezko's name and his "slum lord business" during a recent debate.

The Obama campaign declined to comment on Rezko's arrest.

Earlier this month, Obama gave to charity more than $40,000 in past political contributions from seven individuals with ties to Rezko. The decision to donate the money contributed to Obama's House and Senate campaigns - but not his current presidential bid - came after a published report that Obama is the unnamed "political candidate" in one paragraph of a 78-page prosecution document that outlines the case against Rezko.

Obama also has had to answer questions about how Rezko became involved in the purchase of the Obama family home as well as other ties to Rezko that go back more than 15 years.

Obama has been accused of no wrongdoing involving Rezko or anyone else.

Rezko also has been one of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's leading fundraisers.

Rezko is charged in a 24-count indictment with pressuring businesses seeking work before two state regulatory boards to make campaign contributions and payoffs.

Once the estimated eight- to 12-week trial is over, Rezko still will face federal charges alleging he swindled General Electric Capital Corp. out of $10 million in connection with the sale of two pizza restaurant chains.

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Associated Press Writer Don Babwin contributed to this report.

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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