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CHICAGO � The trial of Democratic fundraiser Antoin ‘Tony’ Rezko begins next week in federal court in Chicago, kicking off a case that will detail a web of allegedly fraudulent activity in which Rezko used his influence with state government entities for personal and political gain. Allegations that Rezko sought political campaign contributions and personal benefits in exchange for Illinois government jobs and contracts reaches to several state agencies and offices, touching even Gov. Rod Blagojevich, who hasn’t been charged with wrong-doing. Three other men indicted with Rezko have pleaded guilty and are expected to be witnesses at the trial. The U.S. attorney’s office has been conducting a wide-ranging probe of state hiring. “Rezko used his relationship with certain State of Illinois officials to ensure that he had the ability to influence the actions of certain boards for the benefit of himself and his nominees and associates,” the government said in a document filed Feb. 26 in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois. U.S. v. Rezko, No. 05-691. Joseph Duffy, a Chicago-based attorney at Stetler & Duffy who represents Rezko, couldn’t be reached for comment. U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve is presiding over the case. “It’s clearly a significant case because it deals with public corruption and individuals that had connections high into state government and various state agencies,” said Michael Siegel, a Northbrook, Illinois-based attorney at Stone, McGuire & Siegel who represents Steven Loren, one of the men who pleaded guilty. The trial has also stirred up controversy for Democratic presidential nominee Senator Barack Obama of Illinois, who acknowledged a relationship with Rezko and said he has returned campaign contributions that came into his coffers through the fundraiser. Sidley Austin partner Scott Lassar, who formerly led the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago, declined to comment on the trial or the role of his client, Joseph Cari, who has pleaded guilty in connection with the activity. Jeffrey Steinback, the lawyer representing Stuart Levine, a key witness for the government, couldn’t be reached for comment. Randall Samborn, a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office, declined to comment on the case.

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