The fraud schemes of an influential Chicago businessman who figured in the downfall of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich demonstrates a pay-to-play mentality that should be punished by up to 7 years in prison, prosecutors said today in a court filing.
A major fundraiser for both Blagojevich and former U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr., Raghuveer Nayak was never charged in his central role in the Blagojevich corruption saga. But he pleaded guilty last year to federal fraud charges that he bribed doctors to send patients to surgery centers he owns in Illinois and Indiana. Now prosecutors want a judge to consider Nayak’s wrongdoing in the Blagojevich case in sentencing at Nayak later this month.
“(Nayak’s) willingness to corrupt is evident not only in his efforts to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship, but also to interfere with the relationship between politician and public for his own personal gain,” prosecutors said in the filing, asking U.S. Judge Robert Gettleman to sentence Nayak to up to 7 years and 3 months in prison. “In both contexts, he has proved that he believes money buys influence.”
Nayak, 58, admitted in his plea agreement with prosecutors that he paid a podiatrist about $200 to $300 in cash to perform procedures at one of his surgery centers on Chicago's North Side. In all, that doctor conducted about 142 surgeries at the Rogers Park One Day Surgery Center from 2004 to 2009, prosecutors said.
As Nayak made millions of dollars from his surgery centers, he also became a go-to political fundraiser in Chicago's Indian community. He gave mostly to Democrats, and by 2008 he and his wife had spread more than $750,000 to politicians, including Blagojevich, Jackson Jr., Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Gov. Pat Quinn.
Federal authorities alleged that Nayak offered to raise up to $6 million in campaign cash for Blagojevich if he named Jackson to succeed President Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate after his 2008 election to the White House.
Nayak and an associate who worked for Blagojevich's administration, Rajinder Bedi, organized a fundraising effort to convince the governor to select Jackson for the post, federal prosecutors alleged. But federal authorities were listening to Blagojevich's phone calls, and no deal was ever consummated.
Nayak cooperated with authorities in a bid for leniency. Blagojevich was convicted and sentenced to 14 years in prison. Jackson denied the allegations and was never charged in that case, but federal prosecutors in Washington, D.C., later charged Jackson and his wife, former Ald. Sandi Jackson, with misusing campaign funds. Both pleaded guilty and have been sentenced to prison.
Prosecutors said Nayak’s role in the Blagojevich saga was evidence of his “extensive corruption.”
“These interactions reveal (Nayak’s) character as a person who appear to believe that money buys power – consistent with the approach he adopted in soliciting business for his surgery centers,” prosecutors wrote.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun