CHICAGO — Former Illinois Gov. Dan Walker was sentenced Thursday to seven years in prison on federal fraud and perjury charges stemming in part from improper loans arranged for him from his savings and loan business before it went broke.
U.S. District Judge Ann Williams also sentenced the 65-year-old Walker to five years of probation and ordered him to repay $231,609 in loans to First American Savings & Loan Assn. in suburban Oak Brook, which he owned with his wife, Roberta.
"It's clear to this court that a pattern was established and that you, Mr. Walker, thought this bank was your own personal piggy bank to bail you out whenever you got into trouble," Williams said.
Walker refused to comment after the sentencing. He is to surrender to begin his prison sentence Jan. 4.
Walker had pleaded guilty, but had accused prosecutors of wrongly making it appear that he personally profited from the transactions.
The Democrat, who served as governor from 1973 to 1977, was charged with misapplying $280,000 from his savings and loan, lying to U.S. banking officials and filing false financial statements to borrow more than $1.1 million from five banks.
The government charged that Walker used the loans to help expand his quick-oil-change franchise business and for personal expenses, such as a $1-million yacht.
"We're extremely pleased with the sentence," said Thomas Durkin, deputy chief of the U.S. attorney's special prosecutions unit. "It sends out a strong message to the community that bank fraud crimes will not be tolerated."
Defense attorney Thomas Foran pleaded for leniency, saying it was "evident that he (Walker) was staggered by the reduction in the scope of his impact when he left public office and that he pushed himself into overwhelming financial difficulties."
Foran stressed that Walker willingly pleaded guilty.
"He came in here and shamed himself and admitted that what he did was wrong," Foran said.
But federal prosecutors wanted to make an example of Walker because he was a former public official, Foran said.
"You've got this man before you who was king of the hill (now) in a shambles and these young men seem to think the law is some kind of a sword that you whip people's heads off with."
Williams rejected Foran's plea, saying to Walker: "You were and you lived the American dream and in this court's view that was not enough for you. . . . You viewed yourself as somehow above the law."