DECEMBER 14, 2007
The wealthy businessman who served as gambling adviser to Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich is himself a big-time gambler who has been federally charged with tax fraud for improperly using company funds to pay off huge gambling debts over the years.
Roofing contractor Christopher Kelly was actually one of Blagojevich’s closest advisers and the governor’s onetime campaign fund chairman. Federal prosecutors say Kelly cheated on his taxes to pay gambling debts, under reporting his income for at least five years by more than $1 million.
It turns out the gambling adviser wagered millions of dollars with an unnamed bookie in Chicago and millions more at Las Vegas casinos. He then paid the debts out of corporate funds from his businesses, portraying the payments as legitimate expenses. Additionally, he is accused of concealing $1.3 million in taxable income.
As the governor’s top gaming adviser, Kelly actually represented the administration in negotiations between the Illinois Gambling Board and a big casino. Blagojevich says he picked his good friend and generous campaign donor to the post precisely because he knew Kelly was an avid gambler.
This latest scandal is par for the course for Blagojevich’s administration, which has become best known for starring in a seemingly endless corruption probe. Several key members of the governor’s administration have already been indicted for fraud and influence peddling regarding state contracts and more are sure to be charged in the coming months.
Among the Blagojevich insiders indicted on multiple counts is a shady political fundraiser, Antoin Rezko, who took hefty kickbacks on government deals. Rezko is also a big campaign contributor and close friend of Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama, who is a senator from Illinois.
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