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CHICAGO-The 22-count indictment against former Governor, Illinois Secretary of State and potential Nobel Peace Prize candidate George H. Ryan Sr. involves real estate deals allegedly orchestrated by one of 65 other “Operation Safe Road” defendants. Lawrence E. Warner is accused by US Attorney Patrick J. Fitzgerald of profiting to the tune of more than $3 million from insider dealings, including three city and suburban office lease deals.

Ryan, Illinois Secretary of State from 1990 to 1998, is accused of directing an underling to enlist Warner in locating office space in early 1994. Warner directed the employee to a building at 605 Maple Rd. in Joliet, according to the indictment, but also is accused of buying “a substantial ownership interest in the building, but concealed the interest by using a third-party nominee.” The indictment alleges Ryan signed off on a four-year lease in January 1995, which also allowed Warner to receive $387,500.

Warner is accused of attempting to hide his role in brokering a six-year lease for space at 17 N. State St. in 1991, when the Secretary of State’s office moved from 188 W. Randolph St. Fitzgerald’s office charges Warner of receiving $383,276 in commissions on the $6.4-million deal while concealing his involvement by having someone else’s name on the contract with the property manager. The 388,000-sf, 92-year-old building changed hands in 2001 for $12.8 million, according to property records.

After the Secretary of State’s police department decided in 1992 to use a building at 405 N. Mannheim Rd. in Bellwood, Warner used another third party to front for him as he bought an interest in the property, according to Fitzgerald’s indictment. Warner allegedly received about $171,000 over 10 years from the Secretary of State office’s lease on the building, now owned by a North Side company.

“By giving friends free rein over state employees and state business to make profits—and by steering those profits to his friends, and at times, his family, defendant Ryan sold his office,” Fitzgerald says.

Warner was not alone in benefiting from real estate deals thanks to Ryan’s help, according to the indictment. An unidentified associate received about $600,000 from the Secretary of State’s office as a result of favorable terms approved by Ryan for a lease of a commercial building in south suburban South Holland, according to the indictment.

Ryan, Illinois governor from 1998 to 2002, also is accused of lying to federal agents about his involvement with Warner on the Joliet lease as well as the South Holland lease.

“That a sitting governor would lie to the FBI agents investigating corruption on his watch is a dismal state of affairs,” Fitzgerald says.

All but seven of the 66 “Operation Safe Road” defendants have been convicted. The remaining seven, including Ryan as of Wednesday, December 17, 2003, have cases pending in federal court.

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