Ill. Suburban Mayor Pleads Not Guilty to Insurance Scam Charges

October 26, 2006

Niles Mayor Nicholas Blase pleaded not guilty Tuesday to a federal indictment accusing him of pocketing more than $420,000 in a decades-long kickback scheme.

Blase is charged with coercing businesses in his northwest Chicago suburb to buy insurance from an agency operated by his friend. That friend, in return, would then pay Blase kickbacks, prosecutors allege.

He entered the not guilty plea to five counts of mail fraud before U.S. Magistrate Judge Michael T. Mason, the Chicago Sun-Times and Chicago Tribune reported on their Web sites.

Blase, who also is an attorney, has been mayor of Niles for 45 years. He is accused of using the kickbacks to pay the salaries of two employees of his law firm.

Two other men with ties to the insurance agency also were indicted.

The agency’s president, Steven Weiner, and employee Paul Zdon are both cooperating with authorities and are expected to plead guilty, prosecutors and defense attorneys have said. Blase and Weiner’s now-deceased father, Ralph, concocted the scheme more than 30 years ago, authorities allege.

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