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WASHINGTON, DC - U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and United States Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald of the Northern District of Illinois today announced that a federal grand jury in Chicago issued a 22-count superseding indictment against former Illinois Governor George H. Ryan, Sr., and businessman Lawrence E. Warner.

The indictment charges Ryan with racketeering conspiracy, mail fraud, and other crimes alleging public corruption, official misconduct, and fraudulent conduct during his terms as Illinois Secretary of State and Governor of Illinois.

Attorney General Ashcroft said, “On the stonewalls of the Justice Department in Washington are chiseled the words: ‘No free government can survive that is not based on supremacy of the law.’ When a public official abuses his office, he drains the reservoir of public trust on which our democratic institutions rely.

“In bringing these indictments, the Justice Department is seeking to protect the faith the American people must have in their government.”

Ryan has been charged with a pattern of racketeering activity including: mail fraud; money laundering; extortion, attempted extortion, and extortion conspiracy; bribery; and obstruction of justice.

The indictment alleges that Ryan received illegal cash payments and gifts, vacations and personal services, and that members of his family received cash, loans, gifts and services totaling approximately $167,000. In addition, Ryan allegedly directed payments totaling more than $300,000 to Donald Udstuen, an associate and co-defendant. These transactions were allegedly concealed and disguised to prevent public exposure and possible criminal prosecution. In addition, the indictment alleges that Ryan repeatedly lied to federal agents about facts material to the investigation.

Ryan is charged with knowingly taking actions in his official capacity as Secretary of State to award state contracts to benefit the personal and financial interests of defendant Warner and certain other associates, while concealing, in violation of the law, his financial relationship with Warner and certain associates.

It is also alleged that defendant Ryan knowingly permitted defendant Warner and certain associates to participate in the governmental decision-making process. It is also alleged that defendant Ryan provided defendant Warner and certain associates with material, non-public information relating to prospective governmental decisions.

The indictment also charges that Ryan and agents of Citizens For Ryan diverted, and caused the diversion of labor and resources from the office of the Secretary of State for the personal and political benefit of defendant Ryan and other agents of Citizens For Ryan.

It is further alleged that as part of the conspiracy defendant Ryan acted to terminate Inspector General Department investigators and to reorganize the Inspector General Department for the purpose of discouraging the legitimate investigation of improper political fundraising activities and related official misconduct of the employees of the Secretary of State office. In addition, it is alleged that defendant Ryan was present as employees of the Office of Secretary of State were directed to “clean up” and shred documents related to Citizens For Ryan that were on the official premises of the Secretary of State.

The 22 counts of this indictment stem from a five-year-old federal investigation of bribery and corruption called Operation Safe Road conducted by officers, and inspectors from the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Internal Revenue Service, and the United States Department of Transportation.

“I commend the United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois Patrick Fitzgerald and the men and women who have worked on this case to confirm the supremacy of the rule of law, protect the integrity of our nation’s institutions, and enforce the duties required of our nation’s elected leaders,” Ashcroft said.