Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Chris Kelly pleads guilty to O'Hare scheme - UPDATED UPON HIS DEATH

By Bethany Jaeger
Christopher Kelly, a close adviser and fundraiser for former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, died Saturday, September 12, just days before he was to report to federal prison to serve at least eight years for two of three criminal cases against him. He was 51.

Law enforcement officials reportedly were looking into a drug overdose.

Kelly would have been a key figure in the ongoing corruption trial of Blagojevich, scheduled to go to court in June 2010. Kelly was indicted as part of “Blagojevich Enterprise,” an extensive scheme that allegedly began in 2002 to use the governor’s office for private and political gain, including auctioning off the U.S. Senate seat once held by President Barack Obama. Kelly was indicted along with the former governor; his brother, Robert Blagojevich; former campaign manager and lobbyist Alonzo Monk; Springfield lobbyist William Cellini; and former chief of staff John Harris. Kelly pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Shortly before his death, however, he pleaded guilty today to two counts of mail fraud in one of three federal indictments against him. But it's unknown whether he was cooperating in the ex-governor's ongoing corruption trial.

Read his plea agreement here. The Burr Ridge resident UPDATED: was supposed to report to jail September 18 and agreed to forfeit $450,000 for a scheme of rigging roofing contracts with two major airlines and using illegal kickbacks for personal use. On top of a three-year prison sentence for a separate tax fraud case, his plea Tuesday calls for a nearly five-year sentence.

Kelly pleaded guilty to rigging bids to steer $8.5 million in inflated contracts for roofing work done on American Airlines and United Airline facilities at O’Hare International Airport between 1998 and 2006. The scheme benefited BCI Commercial Roofing Inc. in Markham, of which he is president and owner.

About $1 million of the kickbacks went to repay gambling debts and a home loan, according to the plea. Some of the kickbacks also went to entities associated with Tony Rezko.

Kelly originally was charged with 11 counts of mail fraud and six counts of money laundering for the scheme.

No comments: