Undercover audio played at Rezko trial

March 12, 2008 5:04:44 PM PDT
The former head of a powerful state board testified Wednesday that political fundraiser Tony Rezko called the shots on how the board operated.Undercover audio tapes were played to back-up that testimony.

Played the tapes to demonstrate the charge that Rezko had absolute control over a state regulatory board that the government alleges Rezko used to further a kickback scheme. One of the voices on the tape belonged to a longtime Democratic political operative who was chairman of the board in question:

Sity-nine-year-old Tom Beck is a former Cook County controller and cousin of Ed Kelly, Democratic power broker in the city's 47th Ward.

He testified that in the summer of 2003, when he wanted to be re-appointed to the Illinois Hospital Facilities Planning Board, he gave defendant Rezko a $1,000 check made out to governor Rod Blagojevich's campaign fund. Beck was re-appointed a few weeks later along with another hold-over member, Stuart Levine, who is scheduled to testify against Rezko later in the trial.

The government charges that same summer, Rezko orchestrated three other appointments to the nine-member planning board and controlled a majority on the panel that oversaw hospital contraction in the state. And the indictment further alleges that Rezko and Levine schemed to extort a $1.5 million bribe from a contractor who was trying to build the Mercy Hospital in Crystal Lake by getting the board to support the project even though the state health department said it wasn't needed.

In an FBI tape of a telephone conversation between Beck and Levine played in court Wednesday, Beck is heard saying "I got the marching orders. There's one I think you may be about to help, uh, Mercy Hospital? Our boy wants to help them."

With Rezko sitting a few yards away at the defense table, Beck told the jury he spoke to the defendant before meetings and would give directives to the Rezko "friends" on the board who together had enough votes to approve or deny any project.

Beck testified that during one conversation, Rezko, concerned about appearances, advised Beck, "I'd like everybody to vote 'no' now and then, so it doesn't look like there's the five, the clique."

Beck's cross examination continues Wednesday morning.