Former Chicago Alderman And Nebraska Executive Among Three Convicted After Federal Bribery Conspiracy Trial
CHICAGO — A former Chicago alderman, the head of a $1 billion Nebraska-based prescription medication provider, and another man were convicted today of conspiracy to commit bribery of a fictitious public official to purportedly obtain business from the Los Angeles County hospital system after a two-week trial. A federal jury deliberated approximately several hours today before returning guilty verdicts against all three defendants.
The defendants, AMBROSIO MEDRANO, 59, of Chicago; JAMES BARTA, 71, of Fremont, Neb.; and GUSTAVO BUENROSTRO, 50, of Arlington Heights, were each convicted of the single count against them. They each face a maximum penalty of five years in prison and a $250,000 fine. They remain free on bond pending sentencing, which U.S. District Judge John J. Tharp, Jr., scheduled for 1p.m. on Sept. 24.
According to the trial evidence, which included numerous audio and video recordings of conversations with the defendants, Medrano introduced an undercover FBI agent, who was posing as a purchasing agent, to Barta, the president of family-owned Sav-Rx, and Buenrostro, an associate of Barta and a former Sav-Rx employee. Barta, Buenrostro, and Medrano allegedly agreed to bribe the undercover agent and the fictitious Los Angeles County hospital official — with Barta handing a $6,500 check to the undercover agent on June 22, 2012 — to do business with Sav-Rx, a Fremont, Neb.-based national provider of managed care prescription medication services.
Between December 2011 and March 2012, Medrano, Buenrostro, and a cooperating witness discussed the scheme, resulting in a meeting attended by those three, Barta, and the undercover agent at a Chicago restaurant on March 21. During the meeting, Barta discussed Sav-Rx’s business, including a contract with Cook County. The undercover agent explained a kickback arrangement for him and the fictitious Los Angeles County hospital official, if they were to succeed in expanding Sav-Rx’s services into the Los Angeles County hospital system. Barta replied that the arrangement was okay with him. In subsequent conversations, Medrano allegedly assured the cooperating witness and undercover agent that Barta and Buenrostro wanted to do a deal with the agent and were willing to provide an initial $10,000 payment in good faith.
The same group of individuals met again on May 9 at a Chicago restaurant and continued discussing steering Sav-Rx’s services to Los Angeles County, including using Medrano and Buenrostro to be the minority participants in a contract, with Barta endorsing that idea. Barta directed Buenrostro to do research on Los Angeles County and paid the lunch bill. The undercover agent said that the fictitious hospital official was not going to take any action until there was an agreement and the official saw some money. “We understand that and that’s not the problem,” Barta replied.
On June 22, 2012, Barta, Buenrostro, and Medrano met with the undercover agent at a restaurant in Omaha. The undercover agent explained that half of the good faith money they had been discussing was for his role in brokering the contract and half was for the fictitious Los Angeles County official. The undercover agent assured Barta that the good faith payment would be refunded if Sav-Rx did not obtain a contract from the hospital system. After further discussion about the indirect manner that Barta’s payment would be funneled to the fictitious official, Barta wrote a check on a Sav-Rx operations account, payable to the undercover agent for $6,500, and gave it to the undercover agent.
The guilty verdict was announced today by Gary S. Shapiro, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Cory B. Nelson, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorneys Christopher J. Stetler and Steven Grimes.