Stuart Levine a one-time insider who became a key government witness was sentenced Thursday to 67 months in prison for lining his pockets through illicit schemes. Charlie Wojciechowski reports.
One of the most unsavory characters to emerge from the corruption investigation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich's administration — a one-time insider who became a key government witness — was sentenced Thursday to 67 months in prison for lining his pockets through illicit schemes.
Stuart Levine, an admitted drug addict and serial swindler who once cheated his dead friend's estate out of millions of dollars, pleaded guilty to money laundering and fraud.
During the sentencing, Judge Amy St. Eve called Levine "one of the most corrupt individuals the district has ever seen." The roughly 5 and 1/2 year sentence is in line with a suggestion in Levine's plea deal with Blagojevich prosecutors.
A recent prosecutors' filing reflected their own mixed feeling, noting Levine "victimized the public, charities and universities, and individuals, with losses in the multiple millions of dollars — much of which went into Levine's pockets."
But they also conceded that Levine "has been one of the most valuable cooperators (for this district) in public corruption cases over the last 30 years."
While Levine didn't testify at the now-imprisoned Blagojevich's two trials, prosecutors wrote that Levine deserved substantial credit for the convictions of the twice-elected governor, who is serving a 14-year prison sentence.
"It was Levine's decision to cooperate that set in motion a series of events that led directly to the government obtaining the evidence and witnesses it needed to prosecute Blagojevich," it said.
On the stand during the trials of Blagojevich fundraiser Tony Rezko and erstwhile powerbroker William Cellini, the heavyset Levine cut an odd figure — speaking nervously at times and in a high-pitched voice, occasionally looking confused.
His testimony about his own sordid past was as disturbing as it was captivating.
Levine, 66, described how he used his position as executor of a close friend's will to cheat its beneficiaries, including a deaf daughter, out of $2 million. Levine then sent surviving relatives a $1 million bill for his executor services.
He also described using hard drugs over three decades. In the early 2000s, he said he would snort 10 "lines" of a powdered mix of crystal methamphetamine and ketamine — sometimes at binge parties he flew to by private jet.
Levine, who occasionally seemed disoriented on the witness stand, also told jurors that he sometimes had difficulty with his memory and conceded it may have been due to decades of drug abuse.
At the trials, defense attorneys devoted days to tearing at Levine's credibility, calling him a habitual liar and a lifelong crook, portrayals Levine barely challenged. Cellini's attorney, Dan Webb, told jurors Levine was "a wack job."