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Ex-owner of Wrigley rooftop business found guilty in fraud trial

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 was found guilty on Friday. | File photo

A Lincolnwood businessman was found guilty Friday of short-changing the Chicago Cubs on the team’s cut of revenues from his Wrigleyville rooftop.

Jurors deliberated four hours over two days, before finding former Skybox on Sheffield co-owner Marc Hamid guilty of fraud and structuring financial transactions to hide some $1.5 million from the Cubs from 2008 to 2011. Hamid, 47, will be sentenced at a Dec. 6.

Hamid showed little reaction as the verdicts were read — guilty on each of the nine counts against him — and lingered in the courtroom with his family and attorneys well after jurors were led out.

“This is a very traumatic moment for anyone, especially when the verdict slaps you in the face,” his attorney, Chris Gair, said outside the courtroom.

Hamid, like other rooftop businesses, had agreed to pay the Cubs royalties based on attendance. Hamid’s indictment said he schemed to under-report Skybox’s gross revenues to the Cubs — who were supposed to get a 17-percent cut — by about $1.5 million from 2007 to 2011 and that his actions resulted in the filing of false sales and amusement taxes with the state, city and county. Hamid’s lawyers exposed flaws in how federal prosecutors calculated the amount of taxes Hamid avoided, and what he actually owed the team, but still pegged the figure at hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Attorneys for Skybox said Hamid, a minority stakeholder, was “relieved of all duties and responsibilities” immediately after his original indictment.

Hamid’s lawyers insist he fell victim to mistakes by unreliable business partners and employees, like a drug-abusing colleague who skimmed cash from customers at his Skybox on Sheffield and an accountant who bilked another client — a cancer patient — out of $358,000.

Federal prosecutors say it’s not surprising that Hamid worked with shady people.

“That’s not bad judgment,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Sean Driscoll in closing arguments Thursday at the Dirksen Federal Building. “That’s the perfect cast of characters.”

In all, Hamid is charged with 12 counts, including mail fraud and structuring financial transactions.

During a trial that stretch for two weeks, Hamid’s lawyer, Chris Gair, battered two key government witnesses who brought their own share of criminal baggage to the stand.

Accountant Joseph Gurdak said he helped Hamid hide the revenue he was holding back from the club, but also admitted to an unrelated swindle in which he embezzled from a cancer patient — illicit income Gurdak also didn’t report on his own taxes.

Former Oak Park and Crestwood police officer Richard Zasiebida, who worked with Hamid at both the Skybox and Hamid’s ticket brokerage company and an illegal sport betting business, testified that he also helped Hamid with the fraud — and also that he smoked marijuana daily and once paid for a class on how to pass a polygraph test so that he could conceal his habit and get a job as a cop. Zasiebida also has pleaded guilty to not paying taxes on $160,000 in income from the ticket business and rooftop.

Prosecutors pointed to bank statements showing money flowing between Skybox and Hamid’s ticket companies, Just Great Tickets and Just Great Seats, as well emails between Hamid and his accountants in which he discussed how to finesse reports to hide revenue from the Cubs.

Hamid was no fan of the Cubs organization; in one email, when asked where to send the team’s royalty payments and statements, Hamid replied “Just write to the resident a—hole and they can figure it out.”

Hamid was one of two rooftop owners that sued the Cubs last year, in an attempt to stop the team from building a new scoreboard that would block the views from right field. The case was dismissed. Hamid’s lawyers have said the Cubs went to prosecutors seeking charges against Hamid in retribution for the lawsuit, but federal investigators began the investigation years before the team’s scoreboard plans were even announced.

Contributing: Jon Seidel