A former official in disgraced former Gov. Rod Blagojevich’s administration is joining him in prison after he was sentenced to six months for tax evasion.
Jaime Viteri, who was appointed by Blagojevich to runthe state’s Bureau of Entrepreneurship and Small Business at the Department of Commerce and Economic Opportunity, was handed the sentence Wednesday morning for failing to file taxes in 2006, 2007 and 2008.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Susan Cox told him that the prison time was necessary to deter others from similar crimes.
And she said Viteri’s case was especially egregious because “you had a job that was funded by taxpayer’s money.”
But Viteri’s lawyer, Gabrielle Sansonetti, noted outside court that Beanie Baby billionaire Ty Warner was earlier this year spared prison despite Warner dodging taxes of $5 million. “Many people have criticized the federal sentencing guidelines,” she said, indicating that Viteri, who evaded taxes of approximately $84,000, may appeal.
Viteri did pay withholdingon his $85,000-a-year government job, but admitted he did not file taxes declaringincome from his business,the Chicago Latino Network, a media business which targets the city’s Latino population.
CLN ran successful events, including one called “Schmoozefest,” helping Viteri to enjoy a total personal incomeof nearly $675,000 over the three-year period in which he failed to file taxes.
He apologized to the court, telling the judge “I have no excuses for my error — I have only regret.”
Cox told him she couldn’t figure out why he did it. “I could see no financial stress,” she said.
She said that Viteri had done a lot to help others in his community but added that people go to prison for a long time “in the community that you represent, for a tiny amount of drugs.”
Viteri shouldn’t escape prison simply because he’s a”white collar” criminal, she said.
Viteri resigned from state government in 2009, while he was under investigation by the Office of the ExecutiveInspector General. He was accused at the time of doing CLN and politicalwork on government time, conflicts of interest and submitting a false job application.
He declined comment as he left court Wednesday. In addition to the six-month prison term, he will have to serve six months of home confinement, Cox ordered.