Con Man to Judge: Release Me So I Can Fix the Damage I Caused

Barbara Hollingsworth | August 8, 2014 | 11:47am EDT
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Riverdale Marina (Village of Riverdale, Ill.)

( – A convicted con man and former FBI “mole” in Chicago has come up with one of the most creative excuses for avoiding the consequences of his criminal activity since the “Twinkie defense”.

In a letter to U.S. District Court Judge James Zagel, Bernard Barton, who goes under the alias John Thomas, reportedly claimed that he should be released from federal prison because he’s the only one who can repair the damage caused by his own crimes.

The request was considered especially audacious coming from a defendant who had violated Zagel’s previous order placing him under house arrest by arranging a tryst with his mistress at his dentist’s office.

On Tuesday, Zagel told the 52-year-old real estate developer that it “is impossible to trust him to keep his word,” and ordered that he remain in custody until his Sept. 29 sentencing.

Barton/Thomas faces up to 20 years in federal prison and $250,000 in fines after pleading guilty in May to charges that he used fake invoices to steal $370,000 of $900,000 Tax-Increment Financing (TIF) funds he received in 2012 that were supposed to be used to restore a dilapidated marina he bought in Riverdale, Illinois.

Instead, hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of private boats and other equipment were stolen from the marina in addition to the TIF money, according to the indictment.

Barton/Thomas’ latest crime spree began just five months after U.S. District Court Judge Elaine Bucklo inexplicably reduced his probation on June 23, 2011 from three years to one year after he pleaded guilty to conspiracy in another case.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Randall Samborn told that federal prosecutors did not object to the premature termination of Barton/Thomas’ probation even though his extensive criminal history included selling $350,000 of billboard space he didn’t own in Manhattan’s Times Square and paying his ex-attorney with a baseball he falsely claimed was signed by Babe Ruth.

But when asked Samborn why a career criminal with such a long history of theft and fraud was given access to taxpayer money in the first place, he replied: “I’m not commenting on this case further outside of court.”

In 2005, Barton/Thomas avoided going to prison on the New York charges by cooperating with former U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald and secretly taping 400 hours of conversations with Antoin “Tony” Rezko, a fundraiser for former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich and then U.S. Senator Barack Obama.

Although he confirmed that Barton/Thomas never testified in the corruption trials of either Rezko or Blagojevich, Samborn told that the court records on his prior criminal prosecutions remain sealed.

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