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Ex-Rep. Roger Stanley, informant in Gov. Ryan probe, dies at 71

Former state lawmaker Roger Stanley, an informant for the feds in a corruption investigation that led to the trial and conviction of former Gov. George Ryan, has died.

Stanley, a longtime colorful figure in state politics who carried the moniker “The Hog,” died Saturday after “living the good life in Costa Rica,” according to his death notice. He was 71.

Stanley, a father of three, served as a Republican state representative from Streamwood from 1977 to 1982. After he moved on from the General Assembly, controversy followed.

Stanley was hired at the Illinois Secretary of State’s office under Ryan, allowing him to more than double his pension by working just six weeks for the agency.

Stanley started his own political direct mail company, Universal Statistical Inc., which began receiving contracts from the Secretary of State’s office in 1994. That business led him to forge relationships with politicians and power players in various state agencies.

In 2002, Stanley was twice indicted by federal authorities, once for obstructing justice as part of the Operation Safe Road investigation when he created a fake document to falsely show that Scott Fawell, as an aide to Ryan in the Secretary of State’s office, had reimbursed him for a trip to Costa Rica.

The second indictment involved a scheme in which Stanley funneled $130,000 in bribes to a close Ryan pal, Donald Udstuen — then a Metra board member — in exchange for contracts at Metra over a 15-year period. Stanley admitted to the wrongdoing in an eventual plea deal. Udstuen later pleaded guilty in his own corruption case.

After Stanley was indicted, an assistant U.S. attorney made a suggestion to Stanley’s attorney, Michael Ettinger.

“All he has to do is listen to us. He doesn’t need to say a thing. Just listen to us,” Ettinger said that then-federal prosecutor Patrick Collins told him.

Stanley finally agreed to sit down with prosecutors and so began a long relationship with the feds — one that involved regular meetings in a “secret FBI office” in Chicago for more than a year, Ettinger said.

“He had a great personality,” said Ettinger. “He was very entertaining to talk to — had story after story.”

He wasn’t called to testify at Ryan’s trial, but he gave up plenty on aides to Ryan. Stanley admitted to paying kickbacks to political aides to get campaign work. He took Fawell on free trips to Costa Rica, where they would fish and at times dally with prostitutes.

Fawell, in turn, over the years ensured that Stanley got work from Ryan’s office and the Metropolitan Pier and Exposition Authority, which Fawell ran.

Stanley’s vast knowledge of who operated the levers of power in Springfield and throughout state government made him an invaluable witness to federal prosecutors.

“He was at the intersection of the number of tentacles of Operation SafeRoad,” Collins said of the probe that eventually led to Ryan.

Operation Safe Road initially involved an investigation into bribe-taking at driver’s licenses facilities in Illinois at the time that Ryan was Illinois Secretary of State. It evolved into a broader corruption investigation that eventually ensnared Ryan.

“He did sit down and essentially give us a tutorial from his perspective on how all this stuff works,” Collins said of Stanley. “He was very helpful on how what later would be called “pay to play” sort of worked. He was a firsthand player and he provided that firsthand knowledge to us.”

In 2003, Stanley was sentenced to just two years in prison — a light sentence because of his cooperation.

More than 25 people — friends, family and employees — wrote to the judge about Stanley, describing his charity and good heart, whether it was shown to an employee at the Costa Rica travel agency he once owned or a neighbor boy he took fishing.

Stanley originally won his nickname “The Hog” from a “Dukes of Hazzard” television character for the bossy way he ran the political campaign of a close friend. Over the years, it came to represent a large appetite for state contracts and political business.

Ettinger said Stanley struggled with heart issues for years, including having to have surgery when he was serving his prison time.

Stanley spent much of his time in Costa Rica, including in his later years. His youngest son, 13, lived in Costa Rica. Before Stanley was to report to prison, he asked a judge for special permission to visit his son.

“He ended up being an entertaining colorful person, who ultimately when you sat down with him, told it like it was,” Collins said.

A memorial service will be held at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Lyonsville Congressional Church of Christ, 6871 Joliet Road, Indian Head Park.