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Lawyer: Ex-Rooftop owner ‘terrible’ at business, not a crook

Marc Hamid, a one-time Skybox on Sheffield executive, once tried to stop the Cubs from installing a video screen in right field. That same year, a federal grand jury accused Hamid of bilking the Cubs and local governments for hundreds of thousands of dollars. Hamid's trial is underway. | File photo

The former owner of Skybox on Sheffield in Wrigleyville is a “disorganized, terrible business person” with “God-awful” judgment in the people he hired, his own attorney told a federal jury Tuesday.

But that doesn’t make Marc Hamid a criminal, defense attorney Chris Gair explained as federal prosecutors put the one-time rooftop businessman on trial for cheating the Chicago Cubs out of hundreds of thousands of dollars in royalty payments.

“Mr. Hamid, my client, did not deliberately scheme to cheat anybody out of anything,” Gair said during his opening statement. “Flat wrong.”

The trial comes more than a year after a federal grand jury first indicted Hamid, 47, and accused him of also cheating the City of Chicago, Cook County and Illinois out of sales and amusement taxes. Hamid faces four counts of mail fraud and five counts of illegally structuring bank withdrawals.

At the center of the case is a royalty agreement hashed out by the Cubs and Wrigleyville’s rooftop owners. Prosecutors called Cubs CFO Jon Greifenkamp as their first witness Tuesday morning to help explain how the rooftop owners came to owe 17 percent of their gross revenues to the North Side baseball team as a royalty payment. But Assistant U.S. Attorney Katherine Welsh also cautioned jurors not to expect any baseball players on the witness stand.

“You’re going to see a lot of documents in this case,” Welsh said.

Welsh accused Hamid of hiding about $1.5 million from the Cubs by diverting his rooftop business’ sales to other business ventures and further cooking the books at the end of the year. But Gair said Hamid simply put Skybox money in other business’ bank accounts, so the other companies could make ends meet. He said the money was eventually transferred back to Skybox’s accounts.

“He didn’t have the Chicago Cubs in mind at all,” Gair said.

The defense attorney also laid into two witnesses expected to testify during the trial — Richard Zasiebida and Joseph Gurdak. Zasiebida is a former suburban cop who pleaded guilty last week to dodging about $140,000 in income taxes by hiding money he made with Hamid from the IRS. Gair called Zasiebida a “pathological liar” whose role with Skybox was a “disaster.”

Gair also pointed out that Gurdak, who pleaded guilty to helping Hamid pull off the scam, once embezzled $358,000 from a cancer patient. The Park Ridge accountant, who once worked for Hamid, will likely be called to testify by Hamid’s lawyers.

“It’s not a crime to make a mistake in who you hire,” Gair said.