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Political Consultant Pleads, Will Testify

January 7, 2003

CHICAGO (AP) _ A political consultant pleaded guilty Monday to laundering more than $381,000 funneled to him by a key ally of Gov. George Ryan, and prosecutors said he would testify at the trial of Ryan’s former chief of staff.

Alan Drazek, 62, pleaded guilty to defrauding the Internal Revenue Service, saying he laundered the money as a favor to lobbyist Donald Udstuen, another longtime friend of Ryan.

Prosecutors said Drazek would testify at the racketeering trial of former Ryan chief of staff Scott Fawell and the governor’s campaign committee, which is set to begin this week.

Fawell and the committee are accused among other things of using state employees and tax money to wage political campaigns going back to 1991.

Ryan, a Republican leaving office Jan. 13, has not been accused of any criminal wrongdoing, although recent court papers said he knew of the destruction of documents to keep them out of the hands of federal agents.

Prosecutors launched an investigation into the buying of driver’s licenses when Ryan was secretary of state. Investigators’ focus later shifted to allegations that his campaign operation used state workers and resources.

The governor has not commented beyond saying there are ``two sides to every story″ and memories in such matters may differ.

The Fawell trial is scheduled to be followed by the trial of lobbyist Larry Warner, a longtime Ryan friend accused of taking cash to fix contracts and leases in the secretary of state’s office under Ryan. Drazek is expected to be a witness in that trial as well.

``Alan will testify at whatever trial the government wants him to and he will testify truthfully,″ defense attorney Dennis Berkson said Monday.

Drazek said in a signed plea agreement that his company got $381,096 from Warner from 1991 through 1999, and paid taxes on it. He said he later passed the cash to Udstuen in amounts ranging from $1,500 to $2,500.

Drazek said he was told the money represented ``lobbying″ income. He said he did not know what Warner and Udstuen had done to earn the money.

Udstuen has already pleaded guilty to tax fraud, while Warner has pleaded innocent to racketeering charges.

Drazek is expected to get a reduced sentence of less than 10 months in return for his cooperation. A sentencing date wasn’t immediately set.

Both Drazek and Udstuen have roots in Republican state politics going back to the 1960s.

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