Patrick Fitzgerald's Rezko Mole Probation Sentence Terminated Early
The New York felon whom U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald wired against Chicago's Tony Rezko got three years probation that just ended two years early.
To refresh your memory concerning the mole named John Thomas: in the late 1990s, Bernard T. Barton, Jr. had a billboard business in New York where he rented space on billboards he didn't own or operate. That's illegal.
He defrauded customers out of $350,000, and he used his father's Social Security number to get an American Express business account, where he charged $140,000. Facing a significant jail sentence, he offered to work for the feds. They agreed. His sentence was delayed for about a decade while he cooperated with the FBI.
In 2000, he moved to Chicago, where he became "John Thomas," working undercover for U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald's office.
He eventually became a close business associate of Tony Rezko.
On May 4, 2007, Thomas' undercover identity was revealed by Thomas A. Corfman, a former reporter for the Chicago Tribune, in an article in Crain's ChicagoBusiness.com. Corfman, who had recently rejoined Crain's, wrote:
A former New Yorker has been conducting an undercover sting investigation for federal prosecutors while working in the Chicago commercial real estate industry, according to sources familiar with the investigation and documents in the man's own federal criminal fraud case.
The next day, May 5, 2007, Tribune staff reporter David Jackson followed up with an article that reported further on Thomas' undercover activities. Wonder how the Trib could be so quick to follow up on Corfman's outing of Thomas? Here's how:
The Trib had known of Thomas' mole role for a year. In his May 5 piece, Jackson reported:
When a Tribune reporter discovered that Thomas was acting as a federal operative in May 2006, U.S. Atty. Patrick Fitzgerald took the unusual step of asking senior editors at the paper to refrain from publishing a report that would expose the ongoing probe. Fitzgerald offered no specifics but said an article would derail an important investigation and put people in serious danger of harm.
By the way, there's no indication that Fitzgerald, who knew the identity of the leaker of Valerie Plame's alleged identity as a CIA operative before he began his investigation, ever went after the leaker who outed Thomas to the Trib in 2006. If breaking Thomas' cover in 2006 could have put people in "serious danger," why wouldn't it have done so in 2007?
Back to the narrative:
On February 8, 2008, the Chicago Sun Times reported (emphasis in original):
For the first time, the FBI "mole" who's expected to be a key prosecution witness against indicted developer and political fund-raiser Tony Rezko is talking. ...
Sources said Thomas also logged frequent visits to Rezko from Gov. Blagojevich and U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.). Blagojevich and Obama were among the many politicians for whom Rezko raised campaign cash. Neither has been charged with any wrongdoing. ...
Sources said Thomas helped investigators build a record of repeat visits to the old offices of Rezko and former business partner Daniel Mahru's Rezmar Corp., at 853 N. Elston, by Blagojevich and Obama during 2004 and 2005. ...
Sources said the government had him wear a hidden wire to record conversations with a Chicago alderman -- but that he did not record Blagojevich or Obama.
Despite the Sun-Times' prediction, Thomas was not called to testify at Tony Rezko's trial. He was the Silent Mole.
On June 23, 2010, writing for ChicagoRealEstateDaily.com, Corfman, still keeping tabs on Thomas-Barton, reported:
"U.S. District Court Judge Elaine Bucklo on Monday gave three years probation to Mr. Thomas, who was indicted under the name Bernard T. Barton Jr., court records show.
"Mr. Thomas pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge, which carried a maximum sentence of five years in prison."
In a January 3, 2012 email, Randall Samborn, spokesperson for Fitzgerald's office, stated that Thomas' three-year probation was terminated in June 2011, after one year. The silent Mole is now completely free.
Today, John Thomas is a commercial real estate broker in Chicago.
Meanwhile, a government motion that describes Thomas' undercover activities is sealed. According to Samborn, that's not unusual when records contain "information about non-public law enforcement matters."
There's no indication that the Trib, which went to great lengths to get the sealed divorce records of Jack and Jeri Ryan opened in 2004, against both Ryans' wishes, shows any interest in getting Thomas' sealed file opened.
Ryan was the initial GOP candidate in the race against Barack Obama for a U.S. Senate seat representing Illinois -- that is, until his divorce file was pried opened by efforts led by the Trib, where David Axelrod was once the youngest political editor ever.
Here's a final head-scratcher:
Way back on February 22, 2002, Corfman, then a reporter for the Tribune, in an article focused on Donald Trump's efforts to retain a firm to "handle leasing for his proposed mixed-use skyscraper on the riverfront site of the Chicago Sun Times," wrote:
John Thomas, a partner in Chicago-based Carnegie Realty Partners, and a Carnegie employee, Louis Giordano of New York, were arrested last year in connection with an alleged fraud scheme that took place over five years in New York[.] ...
Thomas and Giordano are free on bond, according to court records. The U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York would not comment on the case.
What? Rezko let someone whom the Trib had reported as having been arrested in New York in the early 2000s, who then resurfaced in Chicago, get close to him? Didn't Tony read the papers? And where is there any mention of Thomas's real name -- Bernard T. Barton, Jr.? Wouldn't that name, and not "John Thomas," have been in his New York criminal records?
The more we know about the Rezko Mole, the more we realize that there's a lot we don't know.