Politics

Informant Claims Blagojevich Once Worked as a Bookie

The man responsible for helping put away two dozen Chicago crime figures in the 1980s and 1990s says he remembers Rod Blagojevich from those days -- and he says the Illinois governor is a former bookie.

Robert Cooley, a mob attorney who voluntarily turned informant for the FBI in the mid 1980s, says Blagojevich regularly paid the Chicago mob to operate his sports betting ring.

"I observed Rod, the present governor, who was running a gambling operation out in the Western suburbs. He was paying street tax to the mob out there," Cooley said in a Web interview that aired on Chicago's ABC7. He said Blagojevich paid convicted illegal gambling operator Robert "Bobby the Boxer" Abbinanti directly.

Cooley wore a recording device for three years while working with federal prosecutors in Operation GAMBAT. Prosecutors brought nine federal trials and won convictions or guilty pleas for 24 people.

In 2004, Cooley published a book about his adventures in which he mentioned one of his chief rivals in federal court -- defense attorney Ed Genson, who is currently defending Blagojevich and appeared before a House panel on Wednesday to argue against evidence being submitted in a potential impeachment trial.

On his Web site, Cooley prominently quotes Genson calling Cooley "a paragon of corruption" and "walking slime." 

Cooley said he predicted when Blagojevich was made governor that he would be selling official positions. The ABC affiliate reported that Cooley had previously told it that Blagojevich was a former bookie, but the affiliate did not air the claim because Cooley refused to be identified and Blagojevich denied the story.

Click here to see the ABC7 report.