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updated: 3/18/2013 9:14 PM

Beavers gambled at frantic pace, IRS agent testifies

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  • Cook County Commissioner William Beavers

    Cook County Commissioner William Beavers
    Associated Press file photo

Associated Press

A Chicago Democrat cashed multiple four-figure checks from his campaign to himself and then gambled the money away on slot machines at a feverish pace -- sometimes within hours on a single day -- an Internal Revenue Service agent testified on Monday at the Cook County commissioner's tax-evasion trial.

The testimony at William Beavers' federal trial in Chicago came as prosecutors sought to prove federal charges that the 78-year-old diverted about $225,000 from his campaign coffers and spent it for personal use -- primarily on gambling -- without reporting it as income as required.

Prosecutors told presiding Judge James Zagel later Monday that the government could rest its case as soon as Tuesday. The defense would then have its chance to present a case, including by possibly calling Beavers to testify. Beavers has vowed to take the stand and speak directly to jurors.

On just one day, April 9, 2007, Beavers cashed three $2,000 checks just several hours apart at the Horseshoe Casino in nearby Hammond, Ind., apparently after he burned through the first batch of money, cashing another check and losing much of it as well, IRS agent Paul Ponzo testified Monday.

From 2006 through 2008, Beavers wrote 100 campaign-fund checks to himself -- in amounts of $1,000, $2,000 and $4,000 -- and totaling about $225,000. Of those 100 checks, 93 were cashed the day before, the day of or the day after Beavers was gambling at the Indiana casino, the agent testified.

The testimony helped prosecutors make the case that Beavers used campaign funds for personal use and that he falsely claimed to have spent it on campaign expenses, even indicating on one of the $2,000-check stubs from April 9, 2007, that the money was used to pay for campaign yard signs.

On Friday, prosecutors entered casino records indicating Beavers lost $500,000 at slot machines from 2006 through 2008. Prosecutors aren't arguing that it was illegal for Beavers to spend campaign money on gambling -- only that he was required to declare the money as income.

Beavers pleaded not guilty to four federal tax-related counts. His attorneys have argued that Beavers regarded much of the money from his campaign coffers as loans and that he eventually paid much of it back. If convicted, Beavers faces a maximum three-year prison sentence on each count.

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