Failure to pay restitution sends Tezak back to prison
By Cindy Wojdyla Cain email@example.com June 10, 2013 11:03PM
Robert "Bobby" Tezak is escorted from the Will County Courthouse in this undated photo | Sun-Times Media file photo
Updated: July 12, 2013 6:36AM
Former Will County coroner and GOP powerbroker Robert Tezak is headed back to prison for failing to pay restitution for his two arson convictions.
According to a federal sentencing memorandum filed in U.S. District Court, Tezak, 65, claimed he was living on only about $200 a month while he was driving a Mercedes, living in an upscale Phoenix community and racking up $380,000 in gambling winnings at Harrah’s Casino in Joliet on return visits to Illinois.
All the while, he failed to pay restitution and fines levied against him after he was convicted of two 1987 arsons, federal authorities said.
Tezak, who served as Will County coroner from 1976 to 1988, went to jail for having two buildings he owned torched: The Galaxy Bowl in Crest Hill and the Private Industry Council building in downtown Joliet.
He pleaded guilty to federal charges for the bowling alley fire in 1994 and was convicted on state charges stemming from the PIC building fire in 1996.
Tezak was released from a federal prison in 2002 and from home confinement in October 2003.
Now U.S. District Court Judge Matthew Kennelly has ordered Tezak back to jail.
“On May 23, the federal judge found that (Tezak) was in violation of his supervisory release regarding his financial obligation for restitution and fines and (the judge) ordered him back into federal custody for four months,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Samborn, who serves as a spokesman for the U.S. attorney’s office in Chicago.
According to the sentencing memorandum, Tezak owed almost $1.2 million in restitution and fines after his convictions. That amount has now ballooned to $3.37 million because of accrued interest on the unpaid fine.
In 2010, the probation department alleged that Tezak had “willfully failed to pay his court-ordered obligations to the best of his ability.” In 2011, the government presented evidence that while Tezak listed a monthly income of $184.68, he was linked to corporate and bank account assets he said were owned by his parents or other family members.
“To listen to the defendant, all money belongs to his parents,” the late U.S. District Court Judge William Hibbler said in 2011. “And it’s unbelievable to the court that one of such a background can work for less than $200 a month and to live on that amount of money, to have access to all kinds of vehicles, to live in all kinds of luxury apartments. It is simply unbelievable.”
Hibbler ordered a pre-sentencing report and an update on the amount of restitution still owed. During the investigation, the probation department determined that Tezak was living in an upscale Phoenix community, he was driving a Mercedes and his monthly minimum credit card payments were $4,000.
Tezak said all of the money came from his parents, but he would not provide records relating to the Tezak’s family business, Tezak Investment Corp., according to the memorandum.
Later, during a deposition, Tezak admitted to federal authorities that he ran Tezak Investment Corp., which had purchased millions of dollars in land and property in the past few years. He also said that he could get money from his parents whenever he wanted it and that he gambled and won thousands of dollars, including $380,000 from Harrah’s Casino in Joliet between 2006 and 2008.
Tezak will begin serving the four-month sentence on Aug. 27 at a federal prison to be determined by the U.S. Bureau of Prisons, Samborn said.
In a 2003 interview with the Herald-News, Tezak, who once owned the rights to the UNO card game and an Indy car that won the Indianapolis 500 in 1990, said he was worth $40 million at the peak of his career. In the same interview he blamed much of his downfall on a cocaine addiction. In 2005, he told the newspaper he had paid all of his restitution and the fines pending against him were dismissed in bankruptcy court. But the recent sentencing memorandum details how many of the checks sent for restitution were not valid and could not be cashed.
State’s Attorney Jim Glasgow, who prosecuted Tezak for the PIC building fire, said the latest development in the Tezak case is not unusual. If the U.S. attorney’s office believes Tezak has the resources to pay restitution, they will go after him for it, Glasgow said.
“It’s not like they’re singling him out, it happens all the time,” Glasgow said.
Tezak was involved in a deal that brought a Menards to Crest Hill in 2007, so perhaps the federal government is seeking some of that money, Glasgow said.
“Obviously, based on his investment in the Menards case, he was at that time earning an income,” Glasgow said.