A businessman who stole more than $500,000 from his dying mother to help his drug addicted son was spared prison Thursday by a sympathetic federal judge who said he might have done the same thing.
Daniel Mahru — the former business partner of real estate mogul and political fundraiser Tony Rezko — was instead sentenced to three years of probation by U.S. District Judge Robert Dow.
Mahru helped the feds convict both Rezko and former Illinois Finance Agency chief Ali Ata after prosecutors learned in 2005 that he’d taken money from his mother while she suffered from dementia.
His sentencing on Thursday after nearly a decade tied up the last loose thread connected to a series of public corruption cases that eventually brought down former Gov. Rod Blagojevich.
But after hearing how Mahru had been handed the “extraordinary burden” of caring for his mother while his son battled a life-threatening drug addiction, Dow said his reaction was, “There but for the grace of God, go I.”
During a sad and poignant sentencing hearing, Mahru’s lawyer, Jeffrey Steinback, told the judge that Mahru was unable to pay for rehab and housing for his son without destroying his business.
Believing that his wealthy mother would happily have paid for her grandson’s needs had she been mentally competent, and knowing that he would in any case have inherited the money when she died, Mahru “temporarily” stole the money, paying it back to his mother’s estate before he even knew the feds were investigating, Steinback said.
Mahru himself told the judge that there was “no excuse” for his actions, asking to be spared prison so that he could continue to care for his family.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Carrie Hamilton sympathized with the “personal tragedy” Mahru endured and said she too had questioned what she would have done if put in the same circumstance.
But she said Mahru, a trained lawyer, should have sought a judge’s approval before taking the money.
Dow agreed, telling Mahru, “You cannot count your inheritance chickens before they hatch,” but describing the case as “unique” and completely different from a case in which an embezzler lives the high life.
“The true victim was Mr. Mahru’s mother and she didn’t even know she’d been the victim,” he said, praising the “excellent care” Mahru had provided her.
In addition to the probation, Mahru must also pay a $1,000 fine and serve six months of home confinement, though he will be allowed to leave his house to work.