Cellini tapes go back to early days of Blagojevich investigation

October 14, 2011

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(AP Photo/ M. Spencer Green, File)
Stuart Levine leaving federal court in October of 2006.

Prosecutors are playing tapes that are more than seven years old at the corruption trial of millionaire businessman and Blagojevich co-defendant Bill Cellini.  The tapes are conversations Stuart Levine had on secretly recorded phone calls.  He was on state boards and was taking bribes from businesses that wanted state contracts.

The calls were recorded in 2004, the early days of Rod Blagojevich's time as governor and the early days of the wide-ranging federal investigation called "Operation Board Games."

Levine has pleaded guilty to fraud schemes, and he's cooperating with prosecutors and testifying against Cellini.  On the stand he's told jurors how he and Blagojevich fundraisers Tony Rezko and Chris Kelly plotted to extort bribes from state contractors and how they used Cellini to ask one contractor for a campaign contribution.

Cellini was left out of the planning and didn't know the particulars of the extortion attempt, but prosecutors say he knew that he was part of a scheme to trade campaign contributions for state business.  They say he joined in the plot to maintain his own influence with Blagojevich and his advisors.