Chicago hospital: Fmr. Blagojevich fundraiser dies

September 12, 2009 3:29:21 PM PDT
Ousted Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich's former chief fundraiser died Saturday at a Chicago hospital, a hospital spokesman said. Christopher Kelly, 51, arrived at Cook County's Stroger hospital by ambulance at 5:15 a.m. Saturday and was pronounced dead at 10:46 a.m., said spokesman Marcel Bright.

Bright did not know whether Kelly was conscious when he arrived in the emergency room or where he was transported from. He said the body was still at the hospital, but was to be taken to the morgue where an autopsy was to be performed.

Kelly, a suburban roofing contractor, was Blagojevich's longtime fundraiser and had been indicted on three separate federal cases, including the one that alleges Blagojevich sought to sell or trade President Obama's former seat in the U.S. Senate.

Kelly had pleaded not guilty in that case to charges that he plotted with Blagojevich even before his 2002 election to use the muscle of the governor's office as a moneymaking machine to squeeze payments out of those seeking state business.

However, Kelly pleaded guilty and was sentenced to federal prison terms in two other indictments.

Blagojevich was in New York when he learned of Kelly's death. "I am deeply saddened to hear that Chris has died. My heart goes out to his wife Carmen, his three daughters Grace, Jacqueline and Claire and his entire family. They are in our prayers," Blagojevich said in a statement.

On Tuesday, Kelly admitted he paid $450,000 in kickbacks to an unnamed consultant who allegedly inflated cost estimates for repairs to hangars operated by American Airlines and United Air Lines at O'Hare International Airport. He was sentenced to nearly 5 years in prison.

Kelly admitted that bids on the projects were rigged to make certain that his BCI Commercial Roofing Inc. would land the contracts. In all, the contracts paid Kelly $8.5 million. His profit was $2.5 million, according to the plea agreement.

The latest sentence is on top of the 3-year sentence handed to him in June for obstructing the Internal Revenue Service for paying gambling debts with his company's money and illegally structured cash withdrawals to hide how much money he was taking from the company.

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Associated Press writers Tammy Webber and Caryn Rousseau contributed to this report.


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