CHICAGO — A former chief of staff and longtime friend of ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich pleaded guilty to wire fraud Tuesday and promised to cooperate with federal prosecutors in their corruption case against the former governor.
Alonzo "Lon" Monk, 51, said that as Blagojevich's top aide he had witnessed efforts to shake down road builders, a hospital executive and a racetrack owner for hundreds of thousands of dollars in campaign contributions for the governor.
Monk said that even before Blagojevich was elected, there was talk of using the powers of the governor's office to raise a cash hoard that would eventually be divided up among an inner circle of key advisers.
Monk's decision to cooperate and take the witness stand if called upon at Blagojevich's trial could be a devastating blow to the former governor because the onetime chief of staff might provide jurors with a firsthand account of the corruption that prosecutors say was swirling around the state administration.
Blagojevich, who is accused of plotting to sell or trade President Barack Obama's former U.S. Senate seat, among other things, has denied wrongdoing and pleaded not guilty to the charges against him. His attorney, Sheldon Sorosky, said Blagojevich is still in New York, taping Donald Trump's Celebrity Apprentice.
Monk pleaded guilty to a single count of wire fraud for squeezing a racetrack owner for a $100,000 campaign contribution. Blagojevich was to sign a bill taxing gambling casinos to subsidize Illinois racetracks, according to the Blagojevich indictment and Monk's signed plea agreement.