Operation Board Games
Operation Board Games is a federal fraud investigation initiated by United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald in December 2003, in order to investigate suspected fraud and extortion activity by Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich. The investigation's name is a reference to two governing bodies in Illinois: one board controlling the Teacher's Pension System, and the second being the Health Facilities Planning Board.
In summer 2006, Fitzgerald indicated that he was investigating allegations of "endemic hiring fraud" in state agencies under Blagojevich's control as part of the federal Operation Board Games probe. The effort was characterized at that time as locating "a number of credible witnesses" but Blagojevich was not accused of any unlawful activities. The May 2007 indictment of Chicago attorney Edward Vrdolyak for his "alleged involvement in a kickback scheme concerning the sale of a Chicago Gold Coast neighborhood building was another piece of the "Operation Board Games" investigation.
A total of fifteen individuals have also been indicted in the course of the investigation. The thirteenth indictment, of William F. Cellini, Sr., which is seemingly the last one before Blagojevich and Harris, occurred in October 2008:
A longtime political insider in Springfield was indicted today on federal corruption charges for allegedly conspiring with two Chicago businessmen and others to obtain political contributions for a certain public official by shaking down an investment firm that was seeking a $220 million allocation from the state Teachers Retirement System (TRS.)—Randall Samborn, U.S. Department of Justice, OCTOBER 30, 2008 Press Release
Obama not involved
U.S. President Barack Obama (a former senator) is not accused of any wrongdoing nor a target or subject of the investigation, as Fitzgerald has emphasized to the media. The President-elect at the time was not mentioned in the initial indictment, other than the explanation that the vacated Senate seat in question was the one he formerly held. His connections to another target in the investigation, Tony Rezko, who was indicted in September 2006 and convicted in June 2008, have attracted more attention, however. The Obama family purchased a strip of land next to their Chicago house from Rezko's wife. The transaction was legal and at market prices, but occurred after Tony Rezko's initial criminal implications.
- Long, Ray (October 25, 2006). "Pulling No Punches Rod Blagojevich was no student—of boxing or school—but he's learned the tough lessons of politics". Chicago Tribune. p. 1. Retrieved 18 December 2008.
- Rooney, John Flynn (May 10, 2007). "Feds Indict Vrdolyak in Real Estate Scheme". Chicago Daily Law Bulletin 153 (93): 1.
- Scherer, Michael (2008-12-11). "Governor Gone Wild: The Blagojevich's Scandal". Time. Time Inc. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- Podgor, Ellen S. (2008-11-05). "Operation Board Games — Another Indictment in Illinois". White Collar Crime Prof Blog. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- Samborn, Randall (2008-10-30). "WILLIAM F. CELLINI, SR., INDICTED FOR ALLEGED ROLE IN DEFRAUDING TEACHERS RETIREMENT SYSTEM WITH REZKO, LEVINE AND OTHERS" (PDF) (Press release). Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- Isikoff, Michael (2008-11-15). "Corruption in the Land of Lincoln: These should be heady days in Springfield, but state politicians have been jolted by unseemly accusations". Newsweek. Newsweek, Inc. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- "Blagojevich on guilty verdict: 'I, frankly, am stunned'". Chicago Tribune. June 27, 2011. Retrieved June 29, 2011.
- "ILLINOIS GOV. ROD R. BLAGOJEVICH AND HIS CHIEF OF STAFF JOHN HARRIS ARRESTED ON FEDERAL CORRUPTION CHARGES" (PDF) (Press release). United States Department of Justice. 2008-12-09. Retrieved 2008-12-13.
- Korecki, Natasha (2008-06-05). "Timeline: 'Operation Board Games'". Chicago Sun-Times. Digital Chicago, Inc. Retrieved 2008-12-14.
- Businessman and Political Fundraiser Antoin Rezko Indicted in Two Fraud Cases, Including Scheme to Extort Millions of Dollars from Firms Seeking Teachers' Pension Fund Investments