Defense: Medrano never fell for government 'snitch'

Ambrosio Medrano, a former Chicago alderman convicted nearly two decades ago of public corruption, was searching for a financial opportunity for his wife of 35 years so the two could retire and spend time with their grandchildren, his attorney told a jury today at Medrano’s federal bribery trial.

So when an acquaintance said he had a millionaire medical sales rep pal in Los Angeles who could help him out, Medrano was willing to listen, said Gal Pissetzky, Medrano’s attorney.

As it turned out, the acquaintance was a government “snitch” and the L.A. sales rep an undercover FBI agent with a cover story – that he had a “guy,” a public official in L.A., who could help Medrano and his two co-defendants secure a government contract there, Pissetzky said.

But Medrano never fell for it, his attorney insisted in opening statements.

“Ambrosio Medrano knew how to filter out the exaggerations,” Pissetzky said. “There were too many inconsistencies in (the agent’s) story.”

Medrano did, however, believe the sales rep was for real – so he agreed to meet with him, hoping to lobby for a contract. But there was never a plot to bribe any official, as federal prosecutors allege, Pissetzky said.

The charges allege that Medrano and longtime friend Gustavo Buenrostro agreed to act as minority participants to help secure the contract for James Barta’s Nebraska-based Sav-Rx pharmaceutical company. All three are on trial in federal court in Chicago.

Prosecutors say secretly recorded conversations show the three conspiring to influence the public official – who was a fiction of the FBI sting. The seven-month plotting ended with Barta handing over a $6,500 check to the undercover agent, prosecutors allege.

Pissetzky’s opening statement on behalf of Medrano picked up on the same themes as attorneys for Barta and Buenrostro had already driven home to the jury – that the three were victims of a government mole and an aggressive federal agent who had business cards and a website promising he was a legitimate sales rep in the medical field.

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