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Feds subpoena hospital's ties to Blago friend
Associated Press

Antoin "Tony" Rezko

 

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Published: 10/23/2008 4:02 PM

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Federal prosecutors have broadened their investigation of Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration, subpoenaing records of ties between his lobbyist friend and a hospital that got a favorable decision from a state board allegedly controlled by convicted influence peddler Antoin "Tony" Rezko.

The subpoena delivered to Provena Hospital two weeks ago sought information about the hospital's relationship to John Wyma, a close friend of the governor, according to a person familiar with the investigation who spoke only on condition of anonymity because grand jury subpoenas are secret.

Wyma was also a top aide when the governor was a member of Congress, he has raised funds for Blagojevich and he is now a lobbyist.

Wyma was registered to represent Provena when it got approval from the Illinois Health Facilities Planning Board in April 2004 to proceed with development of an open-heart surgery unit in Elgin.

A hospital spokesman, Lisa Lagger, confirmed Thursday that subpoena had been delivered to the hospital, which is headquartered in Mokena. She said it concerned a contribution to the governor's campaign fund and the Health Facilities Planning Board.

The hospital made a $25,000 contribution to the Friends of Rod Blagojevich campaign fund in May 2004, according to records at the State Board of Elections.

Lagger scoffed at the notion the hospital had done anything wrong. She noted that Provena has also had adverse decisions from the board.

"We are not a party of interest in this investigation," Lagger said. "Our applications were approved on their merits -- period. We have no favored status with the planning board or this administration."

Wyma was not reached for comment immediately. A message was left with a woman who answered the telephone at the Chicago offices of John Wyma and Associates. The governor has not been charged with wrongdoing and Blagojevich's office had no immediate comment on the subpoena.

The federal government has spent years investigating Blagojevich's administration and he has steadfastly denied involvement in any of the crooked politics revealed during Rezko's fraud trial.

The Chicago Tribune, citing unnamed sources, reported in its Thursday edition that a federal subpoena also was delivered to the Illinois Road and Transportation Builders Association that named millionaire lobbyist William Cellini and was related to his involvement in a Blagojevich fundraiser. The newspaper said the head of the road builders group confirmed it received the subpoena but he would not discuss the details. The group and Cellini did not immediately return messages left by the AP.

Cellini also is not accused of any wrongdoing. His name came up repeatedly at Rezko's trial.

That trial also focused heavily on the health facilities planning board.

The board is little known outside the health care industry, but it has life-and-death power over multi-million-dollar projects.

Hospitals must get approval from the board if they are to proceed with their expansion programs.

Rezko's trial ended in June with his conviction on charges of launching a $7 million scheme to squeeze a contractor and seven money management firms seeking business with the state for payoffs.

Rezko was a major Blagojevich fundraiser and prosecutors say he traded on his political clout in the administration to get power over the planning board.

Cooperating witness Stuart Levine, a major political contributor and admitted fixer now awaiting sentencing, testified that he and Rezko stacked the board with individuals who would take orders and vote in favor of a project that they favored.

Rezko claimed he never took part in such a scheme, but his sentencing has been postponed indefinitely and attorneys and others now say it is obvious that he is cooperating with the government in hopes of getting a lighter sentence.

Among the charges that Rezko was convicted of was that he plotted to rig an April 2004 vote of the planning board by ramming through approval of a proposal by Mercy Health Care Systems to build a hospital in suburban Crystal Lake.