FBI didn't know about Blago auction documents

September 2, 2010 (CHICAGO)

Surprisingly, this possible evidence wasn't even known to the FBI or federal prosecutors until Blagojevich's trial was well under way in federal court this summer. The potential evidence is exactly the kind that federal authorities use to help build political corruption and racketeering cases: Documents, records, memos and printed e-mails, the essential ingredients of a paper trail.

It was only the publicity for a recent auction that alerted federal agents there were boxes from the Blagojevich campaign in storage.

On that day in December 2008 that former governor Rod Blagojevich was arrested, the FBI went through his Northwest Side campaign office and carried out records. But the Friends of Blagojevich committee had been boxing up and storing records for years in an Arlington Heights storage facility.

When the campaign could no longer pay for storage, the company held an auction.

The storage manager tells the I-Team that about 30 buyers purchased boxes of Blagojevich records and memorabilia a few weeks ago, including a Northwestern professor and a south suburban tow truck company operator.

FBI spokesman Ross Rice says they "did not know" about the stored Blagojevich records until the auction was "publicized in the news."

Rice said that the ex-governor's desk which was auctioned off contained "some paper files," but that "so far, nothing of significance has been found."

As federal prosecutors rebuild their case against Blagojevich for a second trial, U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald declined to discuss I-Team questions about the Blagojevich investigation, including the auction records.

"You could give a try but I'm not going to comment," Fitzgerald said. "I would be remiss if I didn't just cut you off...the office is aware there's a trial beginning in January, and therefore we will not be commenting...I'm sorry, I just, I'm not going to touch that with a 10 foot pole. I, the whole topic, put a big tent over it and I won't touch it. Sorry."

FBI officials in Chicago say they do not plan to examine any further Blagojevich auction records because it is not worth the law enforcement resources.

Among the auction records currently being examined by the I-Team:

  • Blagojevich fundraising strategies and databases that track donor contributions.
  • -2003 records of activities by Blagojevich associates later charged with crimes.
  • A 2004 memo from a Chicago law firm concerning possible issues with campaign expenditures.

It is not clear why federal authorities didn't know about all those Blagojevich records in the Arlington Heights storage facility. But, in the files the I-Team has examined so far, names such as Chris Kelly, Tony Rezko, Stuart Levine, Lon Monk and Joe Cari, as well as Patti Blagojevich, all tend to jump off the paper.

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