By Chris Fusco
The complicated "follow the money" chain referenced in our earlier "Who is Joe Aramanda" blog post has begun.
Aramanda is detailing how a $600,000 loan he got from Springfield lobbyist Robert Kjellander in late summer 2003 didn't go as planned.
Aramanda got the loan with help from former Blagojevich fund-raiser Tony Rezko, who is now behind bars. Prosecutors have suggested the source of funds was a fee that Kjellander got from a $10 billion state government borrowing deal.
Aramanda thought he would use the money to rebuild a pizza business which he'd bought from Rezko.
Instead, Rezko apparently forced Aramanda to use the money to settle a $475,000 debt Aramanda still owed Rezko from Aramanda's pizza franchise purchase.
Aramanda ended up paying $461,000 to people to whom Rezko owed money. He used the rest of the money to try to help his pizza restaurants stay afloat.
Then, in April, Kjellander called Aramanda wanting the one-year loan repaid early.
It was that at time, Aramanda testified, that Rezko arranged for another loan to Aramanda -- from Jay Wilton, a California developer who'd recently been awarded a deal to operate oases for the Illinois Tollway. Wilton also was a major Blagojevich campaign contributor.
Aramanda used the Wilton loan to repay Kjellander the $600,000, plus another $24,000, presumably interest.
Aramanda is now answering questions about the Teachers' Retirement System and "finder's fees" that consultants were paid in exchange for being middle men who paired up investment companies with the TRS board.
Rezko told Aramanda that he could help Aramanda get into the finder's fee business.
In Rezko's trial, it was alleged that Rezko directed a $250,000 "finder's fee" from a TRS investment to Rezko.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Niewoehner seems to continue to be laying out the complicated money trail for jurors.