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What’s up with this Ata guy? *** UPDATED x4 ***

Thursday, May 1, 2008

[Updated and bumped up.]

*** UPDATE 1 *** The feds explain why they didn’t have Stu Levine secretly record any of his conversations with Bill Cellini…

“It was our understanding that Mr. Cellini was represented (by an attorney),” FBI Special Agent Daniel Cain testified. “It is the policy of the FBI not to record when a person is represented in the investigation.”

That’s an interesting little loophole.

*** UPDATE 2 *** According to a reporter in the courtroom, Ali Ata just testified in Tony Rezko’s trial that Lon Monk, Chris Kelly and Rep. Jay Hoffman were in the room when he and Rezko handed over Ata’s $25,000 campaign check to then candidate Rod Blagojevich in August of 2002. Ata testified that Blagojevich then asked if he and Rezko had discussed a state job.

*** UPDATE 3 *** The Sun-Times has a story up on this…

Ata said he arrived at Rezko’s Elston Avenue office in 2002. In the back conference room sat Blagojevich’s kitchen cabinet, including, Blagojevich campaign manager Lon Monk, fund-raiser Chris Kelly, Rezko and Jay Hoffman.
“I learned that Mr. Hoffman was part of a select group of advisers that were referred to as the kitchen cabinet,” Ata said.

Soon, Blagojevich, Ata and Rezko were alone in the room as the other men stepped outside, he said.

With the check on the table, the conversation started. […]

“Mr. Rezko stated that I had expressed interest in serving in the administration. Blagojevich stated again that I had been a supporter and a friend and asked Mr. Rezko if I had identified job opportunities and Mr. Rezko said yes,” Ata said.

*** UPDATE 4 *** Ata testifies that Rezko boasted of how he allegedly controlled Kelly King, a former Rezko employee who he installed as executive director of the Illinois Housing Development Authority….

Ata said that Rezko told him that King had rebuffed hiring a Rezko relative at a real estate management company that was linked to Springfield power broker William Cellini and under the control of her state agency.

What did Rezko say about that?

“That he had delivered a message through the chairman of the board of her agency congratulating her on her new assignment,” Ata said.

And the new assignment was that she was about to be unemployed, Ata said, for “not acting as a team player.” It was a significant lesson, Ata said, that he carried with him when he led the Illinois Finance Authority.


* Some have wondered where Ali Ata got the cash to allegedly funnel over $100,000 to Tony Rezko and Gov. Blagojevich. Ray Hanania explains

In one case, Ata was involved with other Southwest Side activists, purchasing a property from the State of Illinois that the State of Illinois later leased. That dramatically increased the value of the property and it was then sold to another investor for a $3.2 million profit in a short period of only a few weeks.

Making sure the state kept that lease going appears to be another prime motivation for Ata. He and his pals then allegedly conspired to make it appear that Ata didn’t owe the IRS short-term capital gains, which saved him a ton of money in the short term, but caused the G to come knocking on his door. The US Attorney dropped that tax charge in exchange for Ata’s guilty plea.

* And that’s not all that the feds may have chosen to forgive

Prosecutors filed a court petition [yesterday] asking that Judge Amy St. Eve bar the defense from asking about the criminal past of a witness’ nephew. They also say that the witness, Ali Ata, should not be asked about another investigation into his business that ended without charges. […]

Separately, prosecutors also say Ata shouldn’t be asked about a separate structuring investigation into his business, Jenin Distributors. Structuring is the act of purposely handling sums of cash less than $10,000 to avert a government requirement to disclose such transactions. A bank had flagged Jenin to the government, saying it was under suspicion of structuring. The feds investigated but say that they concluded in 2006 that there was no wrongdoing — that’s well before Ata cooperated.

But the defense will likely try to argue that Ata is cooperating against Rezko (he pleaded guilty just last week) in part because they did him the favor of not prosecuting him in another case.

There’s been quite a bit of speculation, including from former assistant US Attorney Patrick Collins that the feds are a bit freaked out by the way the Rezko trial is going. Stu Levine was an utter disaster. Collins noted on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight last week that the judge’s decision to allow Rezko out on bond may have been a signal to the prosecution that its case is weak. Therefore, Ata’s rather generous guilty plea had to be done in order to keep the case on track.

* Ata is expected to take the stand today. Here’s a brief update from the Sun-Times

On the stand is FBI Agent Charles Willenborg, who is testifying about spreadsheets he developed tracing Rezko’s phone calls.

The charts show the frequency and length of calls between Rezko and some key players in the trial — William Cellini, Stuart Levine, Chris Kelly, among others.

* More from Hanania on Ata and his ilk…

These Arab community “leaders” would tell the community that if they bought tickets to their “candidate’s nights,” their organization fundraisers or donated through them to local politicians, these politicians would respond by giving the Arab American community empowerment.

They said the politicians would give the Arab Americans a voice in their governments.

In truth, these political leaders lied. They did get jobs, contracts and clout but the people who benefited were not members of the community but rather the relatives, children, friends and business associates of these leaders.

- Posted by Rich Miller        

  1. - Ray Hanania - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 12:27 pm:

    Ata was the owner of Jaffa Candy where his nephew was accused of running Methemphatamine-type drugs through the company’s distribution system with a dozen other Arab Americans including several business and car dealers from the Southwest Suburbs. Ata was named in the federal press release when the investigation was announced in 2001 or 2002 as the owner of the company and he claimed he didn’t know what his nephew was doing. Since, several of the people were convicted and sentenced.

    Ata was also the Chicago Chapter president of the American Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee. The Chicago Chapter ran its activities somewhat separate from the national ADC office so there is no suggestion that the Nationa ADC knew of any of this, but Ata and several Chicago ADC Chapter members (Aihame al-Sammarae was a national board member), were involved in the various schemes mentioned in the plea deal. One of his partners, another colleague and big Republican fundraiser for Jim Edgar and George Ryan was also on the Chicago ADC board and on the Illinois Finance Authority (and may be Individual D in the Ata plea agreement).

    These guys had a little clique in qhich they used their clout to open political doors, exploiting the community and then making sure they all benefited rather than the community.

    Thanks for sharing the post.

    I think part of the problem has been the Chicago Sun-Times and the Tribune have both failed to closely scrutinize Arab American activities. There is no “newspaper of record” where routine events like board meetings, fundraisers, and other events, like those these guys organized under the ADC banner (and under at least one Arab business group and one Arab democratic organization) went unnoticed.

    Rezko and Blagojevich and many of the names involved in this story were together often in the community but no one paid much attention.

    The Arab American community is also at fault for not demanding accountability from their leaders. We let them do whatever they wanted to do, thinking they were doing it for us. They weren’t, obviously.

    Thanks for posting the a story link
    Ray Hanania

  2. - wordslinger - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 12:59 pm:

    I don’t understand the Cellini point. He was “represented in the investigation.” Does that mean his lawyer had contact with the government regarding an investigation? Did Cellini know or think he was under investigation?

  3. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 2:55 pm:

    LOL. Wow, I really thought there’d be more comments on this one. Particularly after the update.

  4. - Cousin Ralph - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 3:29 pm:

    Now Jay Hoffman is in the pot. No wonder he was so outspoken in his opposition to giving the voters the power to recall elected officials. What the DEMs in safe Dem seats realize is that while enough of their constituants wont vote for a Republican over a Democrat in the general, they would love to oust a corrupt or derelict public official if it did not mean giving the seat to someone from a different party.
    People are’nt posting because people dont want to come to grips with the fact that Captain Blago and crew are sinking the unsinkable SS IlDem. “We dont have enough life boats!” “People in First Class cant be guaranteed safe passage!” Sadly, this macabre drama will be drawn out over months, but the sense of impending doom is here.

  5. - tom from chicago - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 4:00 pm:

    For the record, I would like to let the FBI know that I too am represented by counsel and will always be so represented…you know, just in case.

  6. - Wild Bill - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 4:23 pm:

    Jay Magoo did the big duck this afternoon as the media was tracking him

  7. - amy - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 5:28 pm:

    did the list of dates and times that Blago and
    Obama went in and out of the Elston office
    appear during this trial?

    early on that was said to be part of the
    trial info that would come out.

  8. - feds case is weak - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 6:08 pm:

    I am shocked that no one picked up on the idea that the feds did not target Cellini…mmm a Bush appointed US Attorney not going after Mr. GOP, I wonder why that happened?
    I think the feds are very worried about the outcome of this.

  9. - Rich Miller - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 6:16 pm:

    ===mmm a Bush appointed US Attorney not going after Mr. GOP===

    Ummm, have you ever heard of George Ryan? You know, the Republican governor who’s now sitting in prison?

  10. - Cousin Ralph - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 7:25 pm:

    Who is to say Cellini has not cut a deal long ago. Once it was clear Fitzgerald was after George Ryan and Lee Daniels, perhaps the smart play was to agree to serve up ammo to take a target off one’s back. Just say’n….

  11. - Fox Mulder - Thursday, May 1, 08 @ 10:45 pm:

    Amy has an interesting point. Supermole John Thomas didn’t take the stand and his flaming assertions will never make it to the jury.

    With all the buildup around Ata, Scully and I were convinced he was going to be named as the 20th 9/11 hijacker by the end of the week.

    Mr. Collins’ comments are disappointing, on “target” or not. Just seems like dissin’ where you made your bones to us.

Sorry, comments for this post are now closed.

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