A New Month, A New Scandal Resurfaces


Speaking of Ethics Violations…Representative Costello (D-IL)

It’s been nearly two days since a democratic scandal has been discussed in the local media. The media has not talked about the East St. Louis democrat voter fraud/attempted murder case in nearly a week now, well, almost a week since the courts decided to hold the accused in jail for the time being. Anyway, now an old democrat-linked-scandal is rearing its ugly head and this time it includes Illinois Democrat Representative Jerry Costello from Illinois’ 12th district (across the river from St. Louis).

Costello’s childhood friend former lawyer and democratic political powerbroker Amiel Cueto who was convicted for conspiracy and obstruction of justice in federal court was in the news again today. Cueto was disbarred in November, but that hasn’t kept him from filing cases -on his own behalf. Amiel is asking for removal of a government lien against a tract he owns on the East St. Louis riverfront. His suit says he has a tentative contract to sell his riverfront property “for a very substantial sum” and the federal lien could hold up the deal.

Amiel Cueto is serving a 7 year prison term for blocking a federal investigation of his former client and business partner Thomas Venezia’s illegal gambling business. Federal prosecutors indicted Cueto in 1997 after they said he manipulated the legal system to protect Venezia’s gambling racket from prosecution. Venezia testified that he, Cueto, and (unindicted co-conspirator in the trial) Costello were third-each partners in a riverboat casino plan, and that Costello was to use Washington juice to try to aid Cueto with an Indian casino. Neither materialized. And, St. Clair County State’s Attorney Robert Haida testified that Costello promised him a judgeship in 1994 if he would resign and make sure Cueto got his prosecutor’s job. Haida said he declined.

In earlier days, Cueto became a cop, then a lawyer who got rich in personal injury (note- Madison County Illinois is where President Bush gave his speech on tort reform earlier this year). Costello, son of a sheriff, became St. Clair County Board chairman, then congressman. Their friendship might have been no problem except for Thomas Venezia. He was an East St. Louis area topless club magnate who earned $48 million in six years from illegal gambling. That’s the amount the feds cited when they put him away for 15 years for racketeering.

Costello’s son, John, was also in the news in 2002 when he may not have been truthful on a job application to the Illinois Secretary of State’s Office. John Costello, 26, was hired as an employee by the Secretary of State’s Office Dec. 4 with an annual $50,000 salary after being recommended by his father for the job, according to the Belleville News Democrat. The former SIUC student signed a request to restrict the release of any student information.

Costello, as you might recall, called for impeachment hearings against U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney in January of 2004 while on the Iowa caucus campaign trail with fellow U.S. House of Representatives member and presidential candidate Dick Gephardt. Costello questioned the award of billions of dollars of contracts to Cheney’s former corporation Haliburton to extinguish fires and rebuild Iraq’s oil infrastructure after the war.

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