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Casinos must wait for $800,000

2 October 2008

LAS VEGAS, Nevada -- Strip casinos alleging convicted political fixer Antoin "Tony" Rezko owes them money will have to wait in line.

Rezko owes approximately $800,000 to Bellagio, Caesars Palace and Bally's for unpaid gambling debts accumulated between February 2006 and January 2007, according to court filings and the local district attorney's office.

Rezko is facing a federal prison sentence after a conviction in June on 16 charges of mail fraud, wire fraud, attempted extortion and money laundering in a political corruption case in Chicago.

A federal trial is scheduled to begin next year on charges he swindled General Electric Capital Corp. out of $10 million in the sale of Papa John's Pizza stores in Chicago and Milwaukee.

The casinos and local authorities, however, will need to wait until the jurisdiction that has custody of Rezko finishes its legal proceedings before they can take legal action on the gambling debts, Clark County District Attorney David Roger said.

"We have to wait until the federal authorities are finished with their prosecution of him before extraditing him back to Nevada," Roger said.

The wait could be lengthy.

Some of the charges Rezko was convicted of carry a maximum of 20 years.

The Associated Press reported Monday that Rezko and his attorneys might be meeting with federal prosecutors seeking information about possible wrongdoing in the Illinois governor's office in exchange for a reduced sentence.

Las Vegas Justice Court issued arrest warrants in May for the 53-year-old Rezko, seeking $472,275, plus fees, owed Caesars and Bally's. Bellagio also has been pursuing a civil case against Rezko for $331,000, plus fees, through the Clark County District Courts. A summary judgment against Rezko was issued in May 2007.

A spokesman for MGM Mirage, owner of the Bellagio, declined to comment.

There are some procedures that would allow local authorities to bring Rezko to Nevada sooner, according to Roger, but that would have to wait until he is in prison. The district attorney could also issue a detainer that would give Clark County custody of Rezko upon his release from prison.

Rezko's attorneys contacted the district attorney's office a few months ago, Roger said, but "we require full restitution so we weren't able to negotiate with them."

Attorneys for Rezko did not answer an e-mail inquiry Tuesday.

Rezko is a former real estate developer who raised funds for many prominent Illinois politicians, including the state's current governor and Sen. Barack Obama.

The money Rezko raised for Obama was when the presidential candidate was running for office in Illinois. Obama has donated $159,000 in Rezko-related contributions to charity.

Rezko raised more than $1 million for current Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich, whose administration is under investigation for corruption.

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