Cicero ex-president ready to leave custody

February 12, 2010 4:42:02 AM PST
After serving seven years in the federal prison system, former Cicero president Betty Loren-Maltese is returning to the Chicago area. She's packing up her belongings in Las Vegas, where she spent the last few months of her sentence, and coming home.

Loren-Maltese was convicted in 2002 on racketeering charges for siphoning millions of taxpayer dollars.

Now, with the help of a Cicero employee, Loren-Maltese will move back to Chicago. She's expected to live in a halfway house on the city's West Side.

"Madam ex-president, how does it feel so close to freedom?" ABC7's Chuck Goudie asked Loren-Maltese Thursday. "I'm not talking to you, Mr. Goudie," she answered.

Once the most potent political person in Cicero and one of Illinois' most recognizable figures, bright and early Thursday in Las Vegas, Loren-Maltese came to a truck rental office near the strip to begin her journey home.

It has been seven years since she reported to the Bureau of Prisons after being convicted of stealing millions of dollars from a town insurance fund, a scheme that was underwritten by the Chicago Outfit.

Now, less than a day from becoming an ex-con, Ms. Loren-Maltese was allowed to pack up her possessions in a home she once owned along a tranquil canal in a gated Las Vegas neighborhood. The home is among several properties and bank accounts she forfeited in the federal prosecution.

But on Thursday, the former Cicero town president wasn't alone in beginning her move. Mark Bausone, a Cicero Public Works Department employee, flew out to Las Vegas Wednesday night to help her. Bausone stayed at the Sahara Hotel, according to sources familiar with the arrangement. He was as delighted to see the I-Team as was his former boss, Loren-Maltese.

"You're on the job today in Cicero, aren't you sir? Why would the Cicero taxpayers be paying for you to be out here to help someone who did seven years for stealing from the town of Cicero?" Goudie asked Bausone. Bausone declined to answer.

The public works director in Cicero, a longtime crony of Loren-Maltese, did not return the I-Team's calls. But when informed of the town employee's presence in Las Vegas on a weekday, Ray Hanania, Cicero Mayor Larry Dominick's spokesman, said the matter has been referred to the town's inspector general.

"It appears that he did ask for some time off. And, like I said, I'm going to confirm that. The town did ask the inspector general, though, just to review it and make sure everything was done properly," said Hanania.

Bausone, who tried to avoid the I-Team Thursday, was also camera shy in 1983 when he worked for Chicago Streets and Sanitation. He was arrested then for a racially-fueled altercation with Richard M. Daley, then the state's attorney, in a Bridgeport store. Then 22, Bausone pleaded guilty to misdemeanor battery after shoving Mr. Daley who then punched him in the face.

On Thursday, Bausone helped Loren-Maltese secure a rental truck and, together with some prisoners detailed from her halfway house in Las Vegas, they packed up a home she owned which has since been seized by federal prosecutors.

When approached by the I-Team, the former town president angrily demanded a telephone and called Las Vegas police explaining that she was one a well-known political figure in Illinois and was now being harassed by the media. The police arrived and calmed down Loren-Maltese, who then went on her way but not without a parting shot.

"Go harass somebody else," said Loren-Maltese.

Loren-Maltese can leave the Las Vegas halfway house any time after midnight.

Friday Bausone will be driving Loren-Maltese across the country and back to Chicago. She must be in Chicago by Sunday afternoon where she will live in a halfway house for the next three months since she convinced a judge she is penniless and has nowhere else to go.