Ata sentenced to probation

Ali Ata, who admitted he lied to the federal authorities about a donation to then-Gov. Rod Blagojevich, waves to reporters as he walks out of the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse after being sentenced to probation. (Abel Uribe, Chicago Tribune / July 17, 2012)

A former executive director at the Illinois Finance Authority who was caught up in the federal government’s extensive probe of the Blagojevich administration was sentenced to four years of probation this afternoon.

Ali Ata emerged as a key figure in the investigation of former Gov. Rod Blagojevich, now serving a 14-year prison term on corruption charges. He told investigators he had bribed a top Blagojevich adviser to get his position on the finance authority and that Blagojevich was there when money changed hands.

"I agree there was an extraordinary amount of cooperation," U.S. District Judge James Zagel said in handing down the sentence.

Ata was sentenced Tuesday for lying to federal authorities and on his income tax filings. He had faced up to 18 months in prison.

In his 2008 plea agreement, Ata said Blagojevich was present in a meeting at Antoin Rezko's Chicago office, where Ata brought a $25,000 campaign check and where a state position for him was discussed.

Rezko put the check on a conference room table in front of Blagojevich, Ata told authorities.

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