Rezko associate pleads guilty in loan case

CHICAGO That happened while Rezko was in another courtroom in the same building. The witness, who is now talking to federal authorities, is ready to testify about trading campaign cash for jobs.

Tuesday's development made it clear that Rezko's other case has become more than just an alleged financial crime. A co-defendant pleaded guilty in a widening federal investigation into state government corruption.

Rezko, who is currently on trial for scheming to extort kickbacks from companies trying to get state business, is awaiting trial in a separate financial fraud case alleging that he filed false information on a $10 million loan application. His co-defendant in the 2006 indictment was 56-year-old Ali Ata, the former director of the Illinois Finance Authority, who wrote a letter on IFA stationery to help Rezko get the loan.

On Tuesday, Ata plead guilty to lying to federal agents and to income tax fraud. Ata also has agreed to cooperate with the U.S. Attorney's Office as it continues its case against Rezko.

"The government's continuing investigation had disclosed evidence of two offenses for which he had not previously been charged. There was substantial evidence to support those charges. And he decided to enter a plea of guilty to those," said Thomas K. McQueen, Ata's attorney.

In his plea agreement, Ata claims Rezko engineered his appointment to IFA director and that the appointment was in return for campaign contributions – more than $100,000 - to a candidate described in the document as "Public Official A". Further, Ata said he, Rezko and "Public Official A" met together and discussed possible job opportunities. A U.S. Attorney's spokesman would not comment when asked if Public Official A was Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich, who was initially identified the same way in Rezko's other indictment.

His attorney says Ata will eventually identify "Public Official A."

Late Tuesday, a spokesperson for the governor released a statement saying, "As we've said many times before, we don't endorse or allow the decisions of state government to be based on campaign contributions."
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