Chicago-area millionaire has been sentenced to prison in a bribery case linked
to Illinois’ infamous Operation Safe Road investigation.
The defendant in the
Zlatkovic, was sentenced to nine months in jail and pay a combined fine
and forfeiture of $40,000 after a court convicted him of attempting to bribe a federal official,
said Randall Samborn, public
information officer with the assistant U.S. attorney.
The case drew considerable media attention, in part because of
Zlatkovic’s background. According to The Associated Press, Zlatkovic is
a self-made millionaire that the judge in the case called “the personification
of the American dream.” He arrived in the United States a poor immigrant, and
eventually made his fortune in trucking and real estate.
In March 2002, an FMCSA official was assigned to conduct a safety review
of one of
Zlatkovic’s companies, KGB. In July of that year, the agency conducted a safety
his other company, ATA Transportation.
During the review, the FMCSA official determined that ATA would receive
an unsatisfactory safety rating and would be fined roughly $68,000 for what
Samborn called “numerous violations.” Those included drivers going over the
10-hour driving limit then in effect, as well as insufficient insurance and
poorly maintained trucks.
On July 18, 2002, as the federal official was in the last
stages of the safety review of ATA, Zlatkovic inquired as to what the likely
outcome was. The FMCSA official told him that although his work was not
complete, that he had “already identified numerous major violations in various
categories that would result in an overall unsatisfactory rating,” Samborn
Zlatkovic allegedly said he could remedy many of the
violations within 24 hours, but the FMCSA official said that would not be
enough to avoid the bad rating.
It was at that point, Samborn said, that federal prosecutors
allege that Zlatkovic offered the official $10,000 in exchange for a
Not long after, on July 25, 2002, the official spoke again
with Zlatkovic and asked if his offer was still good. Unknown to the trucking
company owner, the federal official had already reported that he had been
offered the money, and was recording the conversation.
Samborn said Zlatkovic confirmed his offer, which the
official agreed to accept. They met later on, and after the official showed him
a final report showing a conditional rating, Zlatkovic allegedly gave him
$10,000 in cash in $100 bills.
Zlatkovic pleaded guilty to in November 2004. He was
sentenced Feb. 16. Samborn said Zlatkovic had agreed to surrender to serve his
prison term May 16.
– By Mark H. Reddig, associate editor