Mob figure denies dealings with Blagojevich

January 9, 2009 12:47:57 PM PST
A one-time outfit gambler says allegations that Mr. Blagojevich paid him a mob street tax are untrue.Crooked lawyer turned federal informant Robert Cooley says that Rod Blagojevich was a Northwest Side bookie in the mid 1980's.

Cooley, who has been a prominent, successful prosecution witness in mob cases, told the I-Team on Tuesday that Mr. Blagojevich kicked back a portion of his wagering profits to the outfit.

"When I was working with government wearing wire, I reported, I observed Rod, the present governor, who was running a gambling operation out in the western suburbs. He was paying street tax to the mob out there," said Cooley, federal informant.

After a webcast, Cooley told the I-Team that in the 1980's Mr. Blagojevich was paying mob protection money, known as a street tax, to North Side outfit soldier Robert Abbinanti, once nicknamed 'Bobby the Boxer.'

"My name is Bob Abbinanti. You did a report yesterday with Robert Cooley pertaining to Mr. Blagojevich stating that I was a bookmaker and that I took a street tax from him in the late 80's," said Abbinanti.

In a phone call to ABC7, Mr. Abbinanti denied having been Blagojevich's mob handler 25 years ago.

Abbinanti admits having run outfit gambling rackets with Marco 'The Mover' D'amico and that he was convicted with top mob gambling bosses for which he spent six years in the federal penitentiary.

"I don't know what Rod Blagojevich did or has done but I do know one thing. I never met the man. I never spoke to the man. I never had any business - personal or in any way with him and you know what, it's just an injustice," said Abbinanti.

Cooley, a lawyer for mobsters in the 1980's, says he used to represent Abbinanti.

Mr. Abbinante tells ABC7 he is now a legitimate businessman and owns a window company.

After Cooley became a federal informant, his undercover work and testimony put away 24 crooked politicians, judges, lawyers and cops.

Blagojevich's lawyer Ed Genson downplayed Cooley's 25-year-old allegation, telling the I-Team that the governor has enough current problems. But Genson said he would enjoy cross-examining Robert Cooley on such a ludicrous accusation.

Cooley says he told federal prosecutors several years ago that Blagojevich had been a mobbed-up bookmaker, but that nothing was done.

A spokesman for the United States attorney in Chicago declined to comment.

It should be noted that Mr. Blagojevich's former campaign manager, top fundraiser and close friend Chris Kelly has just decided to plead guilty to tax fraud.

Kelly will admit next month that he failed to report $1.3 million in income from sports betting.