The Chicago Syndicate: New sentencing ordered in Cicero fraud case
The Mission Impossible Backpack

Sunday, September 04, 2005

New sentencing ordered in Cicero fraud case

Betty Loren-Maltese to be resentenced in fraud case.

Suburban Chicago Cicero's former town president and five others must be resentenced in the $10.6 million fraud case that sent them to prison, an appeals court ruled Thursday. Former town President Betty Loren-Maltese could get the same eight-year sentence she's now serving for swindling the suburban community, a stiffer one or a lesser one under the ruling.

A three-judge panel of the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals found that U.S. District Judge John F. Grady, who presided over the three-month trial, made an error in imposing the sentences. The 15-page opinion written by Judge Richard A. Posner said that after Grady calculated the amount of the loss at $10.6 million he wrongly rounded the number down to below $10 million.

Under federal sentencing guidelines, the greater the loss the harsher the sentence. Grady's decision cut 10 months or more off the sentences.

Grady said he rounded the number down by $600,001 because it was merely an estimate and an estimate could be unreliable. "But unless he thought the estimate biased, he had no basis for rounding down any more than he would have for rounding up," the appeals court said.

Loren-Maltese, 55, was sentenced in January 2003 for presiding over a scheme in which millions of dollars were paid to an insurance consultant and siphoned off by the defendants. They used the money to buy a horse farm and a golf course among other things.

Federal guidelines that require longer time in prison for bigger monetary losses were mandatory when Grady imposed the sentences on Loren-Maltese and her co-defendants. But a U.S. Supreme Court decision has since made them advisory only and freed judges to impose sentences outside the guidelines as long as they are "reasonable." That means, the appeals court said, that Grady could impose the same sentences over again and they would most likely be upheld.

The appeals decision was a victory for federal prosecutors who have spent years investigating the small, blue-collar suburb just outside the Chicago city limits that has been known as a haven for corruption since the 1920s when Al Capone made it the hub of his bootlegging empire.

The appeals court affirmed all of the convictions and brushed aside defense arguments that they should be set aside. The court said attorneys for Loren-Maltese were wrong in claiming that she was unfairly convicted because she got little out of the scheme personally beyond increased health insurance coverage.

After the verdict, one juror was quoted in a published report as saying that co-defendant Michael Spano Sr.'s alleged mob ties had been discussed in the jury room. But the appeals court dismissed a defense claim that Grady should have held a hearing to determine if the jury's deliberations had been tainted by mention of Spano's alleged ties. Federal prosecutors have said Spano, now in prison, is the head of the Cicero mob.

Thanks to Mike Robinson.

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