I-Team

I-Team: Brother's Keeper

Thursday, January 22, 2009

His last name is Blagojevich but his first name is Robert. He's the older brother of the embattled Illinois governor.

Who is Robert Blagojevich and why was the FBI listening to his cell phone calls?

Robert Blagojevich has been his 'brother's keeper' since last August or at least the keeper of his brother's multi-million dollar campaign fund, a political fund that Robert Blagojevich's lawyer says is likely to be indicted before it's all over.

The I-Team found that one of the most puzzling questions about the governor's brother concerns someone else's campaign fund.

On election night 2002, when Rod Blagojevich watched the returns roll in and won his first term as Illinois governor, brother Robert was there with him.

But at the same time, according to state election records, Robert's financial services firm had an interest in another Illinois elected official, Betty Loren Maltese.

Maltese is the controversial and now imprisoned mayor of Cicero.

For more than two years, Maltese' bulging campaign fund had invested millions of dollars through a company headquartered in Tampa, Florida, the firm Invest Financial Corporation. Its CEO at the time was Robert Blagojevich, the governor's older brother.

State records show that between July of 2000 and September of 2002, Robert Blagojevich's company paid Maltese' campaign fund nearly $3.3 million. The dozens of entries are listed as investment dividends, interest and proceeds from the sale of U.S. Treasury bills.

Some of the investment payments from Robert Blagojevich's company occurred even after Mayor Maltese was convicted of swindling $12 million from the town through an insurance firm.

Lawyer Michael Ettinger, who represents the governor's brother in the current federal investigation, was unaware of the link to Betty Loren Maltese.

On Wednesday at the I-Team's request, Ettinger had Robert Blagojevich review the state records and Blagojevich reported that "he knows nothing about it" and that the investments must have been made by some other affiliated bank even though his was listed 41 times.

Since taking over as chairman of his brother's campaign fund, Robert Blagojevich has been paid $12,500 a month.

The FBI listened to as many as 50 phone calls between Robert, his brother the governor and others.

Many of the calls were from Nashville, Tennessee where Robert Blagojevich lives in a stately colonial.

The former U.S. Army commander is a real estate developer there, and a key fundraiser and board member for the YMCA.

"Selfless person, doesn't want recognition. Actually would rather not have it," said Michael Check, Nashville YMCA.

But when federal authorities charged the governor last month, his brother was "fundraiser a" in the criminal complaint. In one conversation the governor allegedly told his brother that he wanted to collect cash upfront for the appointment to Barack Obama's Senate seat.

It was just a few months earlier, in May, that Robert Blagojevich gave the commencement speech at his alma mater, University of Tampa.

Oddly, even though his brother the governor also attended University of Tampa, Robert did not once utter his brother's name during the speech.

As for the Betty Loren Maltese financial affair, there are Blagojevich family ties to the crooked mayor of Cicero.

Governor Blagojevich and ex-mayor Maltese have one friend in common: Eddie Vrdolyak, the former Chicago alderman and longtime village attorney in Cicero.

Gov. Blagojevich's first job was as a clerk in Vrdolyak's law firm and it was a relationship that rekindled when Blagojevich was elected governor.

Vyrdolyak himself is now headed to federal prison for a kickback scheme involving one of the governor's top appointees.

(Copyright ©2014 WLS-TV/DT. All Rights Reserved.)

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i-team, chuck goudie
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