Wired for Silence: Patrick Fitzgerald’s Rezko Watchers
Were Bernard T. Barton, Jr. (AKA: John Thomas), Dan Mahru and Dan Frawley used by U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald to keep tabs on Tony Rezko’s associations with senior Chicagoland politicians, rather than help build a criminal case against Tony?
Considering they weren’t called as witnesses in any trial, considering how long – a decade – it took for Barton to be sentenced, how long it’s taking for Mahru and Frawley to be sentenced, plus how no evidence, from any transcript, of any recorded conversation, involving any of the three, ever made it to a trial – it makes you wonder: Just what were they assigned to do in Rezko’s presence?
You suppose they were wired for silence from the start and tasked to be Rezko Watchers, while they silently awaited, and waited, and wait still, the legal consequences of their respective crimes?
Bernard T. Barton, Jr. (AKA: John Thomas)
On February 8, 2001, Barton, sporting his new name, John Thomas, was arrested in Chicago on charges of mail fraud and money laundering committed in New York. The Criminal Docket for Case #: 1:01-cr-00125 (eventually refilled as 1:06-cr-00900 to include his co-conspirator) indicates that, on February 9, his disposition was “Bond ($20,000 Own Recognizance). He eventually pled guilty and could have received a five-year sentence. But he chose, then or later, to wear a wire instead of a jump suit.
From February 9, 2001 until May 2006, when the Chicago Tribune was preparing to out Thomas as a mole for the feds, Thomas was establishing his commercial real estate creds in Chicago. A sleeper mole.
His cooperation with the feds surfaced in May 2006 when U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald persuaded the Trib to not reveal Thomas’ cooperation with the feds. On May 4, 2007, Thomas’ undercover activities were revealed in a Crain’s ChicagoBusiness.com article. The next day the Tribune followed up with an article that confirmed Thomas’ undercover role for the feds. The mole had surfaced.
Then along came the Rezko trial in 2008.
A Sun Times article dated February 10, 2008 stated that,
“For the first time, the FBI ‘mole’ who’s expected to be a key prosecution witness [it didn’t happen] against indicted developer and political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is talking [but not saying much]…
Sources said Thomas also logged frequent visits to Rezko from Gov. Blagojevich and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Blagojevich and Obama were among the many politicians for whom Rezko raised campaign cash. Neither has [yet] been charged with any wrongdoing……
Sources said Thomas helped investigators build a record of repeat visits to the old offices of Rezko and former business partner Daniel Mahru‘s Rezmar Corp., at 853 N. Elston, by Blagojevich and Obama during 2004 and 2005…
Sources said the government had him wear a hidden wire to record conversations with a Chicago alderman — but that he did not record Blagojevich or Obama. [Oh, really? Why not?]
Now fast forward to June 21, 2010. Judge Elaine E. Bucklo sentences Thomas to “three years of supervised release” and he pays a nominal fine. In June 2011, after serving one year on probation, probation was terminated two years early. He’s home free.
The 109th court action in the docket he shared with his partner in crime, Louis M. Giordano, indicates “Full Satisfaction Action (Release) of Judgment in the amount of $6,100” for Bernard Barton. On January 14, 2010, Thomas’ partner in crime, Louis M. Giordano, was sentenced to 38 months in prison, 3 years of supervised release, and fined $675,383.65.
He never testified in any trial. And there is no public record of any transcript from his wiretap days.
Hear no evil.
On December 7, 2005, the long litany of Dan Mahru’s Criminal Docket began. It continues today. Case #: 1:05-cr-00989-1 currently lists 62 court actions in Mahru’s case, begins with the 2005 complaint signed by Judge Arlander Keys. After pleading guilty on July 7, 2011 of “defrauding his mother and the estate set up to provide for her care,” Mahru was disbarred this January. He reportedly reimbursed his mother’s estate.
Meanwhile, court records indicate that his sentencing date has been postponed four times since October 21, 2011. It’s now set for May 25, 2012.
A long time business associate of Rezko, Mahru was not called to testify in Rezko’s trial. It’s been six years after being charged, and he, too, awaits sentencing.
See no evil.
According to the Sun Times, Dan Frawley began cooperating with the feds in 2006. But that’s just the earliest known year.
Now fast forward to December 1, 2010. Frawley is being deposed by an attorney representing his earlier attorney whom he’s suing. In the deposition, as reported by the Sun Times,
“…Weaver’s [Frawley’s former attorney] lawyer, Daniel F. Konicek, asks Frawley about what specific information Weaver is supposed to have told Frawley to withhold from federal authorities.
‘I’m assuming the information is about the payments made by Rezko to Obama, so we know we’re talking about the right conversation, right?‘ Konicek asks Frawley. [The question comes from left field.]
Frawley doesn’t answer. So Konicek presses him: ‘Am I correct it was about Obama being paid by Rezko?’
Frawley replies: ‘I’m not answering that question, based upon my attorney’s instructions.’
Nobody directly involved with the deposition — including Frawley and his lawyers, Weaver and his lawyers, and the FBI and U.S. attorney’s office — would comment.” [The deafening sound of silence.]
Then, nearly two months after that strange exchange, on January 26, 2011, federal prosecutors hit Frawley with an old bank fraud charge that’s past its statute of limitations. He pleads guilty and agrees to pay $4,000,000 restitution. Connect the dots and it looks like the feds weren’t happy with that question coming up in the deposition.
Like Mahru, Frawley’s sentencing date has gone through several postponements and he, too, awaits a new sentencing date.
Hear no evil. See no evil. And, speak no evil – don’t even hint at it.
You suppose maybe the Rezko Watchers were wired for silence from the beginning?
Lee Cary and Marty Watters are special correspondents for the Chicago Daily Observer