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Illinois governor: 'No concerns' about report of fed probe

JOHN O'CONNOR
FILE - In this Feb. 7, 2019, file photo, Illinois Gov. JB Pritzker answers questions during a news conference in the governor's office at the state Capitol in Springfield, Ill. Pritzker says he has "no concerns at all" about a media report that federal authorities are investigating a property tax break he got by taking toilets out of a Chicago mansion he owns. The billionaire told reporters Wednesday, April 24, 2019 he's certain that any review would show "all the rules were followed" in the tax appeal. (Justin L. Fowler/The State Journal-Register via AP, File)

SPRINGFIELD, Ill. (AP) — Illinois Democratic Gov. J.B. Pritzker said Wednesday he has "no concerns at all" about a media report that federal authorities are investigating a property tax break he got by taking toilets out of a Chicago mansion he owns.

The billionaire told reporters he's certain that "all the rules were followed" in the tax appeal on the home. Pritzker did repay the county $330,000 last fall, the amount of the refunds and additional tax savings he gained from 2012 through 2016 by virtue of a lower property value on a home declared "uninhabitable" without plumbing.

WBEZ radio in Chicago cited an anonymous source in reporting Wednesday that Pritzker, his wife, M.K., and his brother-in-law are under criminal investigation for what a Cook County inspector general called a "scheme to defraud" taxpayers, a claim that dogged the Democrat leading up to his November election.

Asked at an unrelated event Wednesday about whether he was worried, the governor said, "No concerns at all."

"I'm very confident that any review of this matter will show that all the rules were followed," Pritzker said. "I have not been contacted by any law enforcement, neither has M.K."

There's no indication that legal action is imminent. The U.S. attorney's office in Chicago declined to comment.

The issue, which became the subject of attack ads which dubbed him the "porcelain prince of tax avoidance" by his Republican opponent, then-Gov. Brue Rauner, fell by the wayside as Pritzker settled into office. But its resurrection could threaten Pritzker's agenda, including an income-tax system overhaul, a state budget, legalizing recreational marijuana and a multibillion-dollar capital-construction plan, all before the Legislature's scheduled adjournment in five weeks.

The Chicago Sun-Times revealed the toilet tax appeal in May 2017 as Pritzker's campaign was gearing up, and it was also first to report last fall on the secret county report. That review by Cook County Inspector General Patrick Blanchard found that M.K. Pritzker ordered toilets in the mansion next door to the family's home be removed so it could be declared "uninhabitable" before property reassessment.

An assessor then reduced the home's tax value from $6.3 million to $1.1 million.

Blanchard contended that M.K. Pritzker's brother and her personal assistant made "false representations" in sworn affidavits to the assessor about the home's condition and the timing of the toilet removal. Blanchard made reference in his report to state perjury law and federal conspiracy and mail-fraud laws, but did not indicate whether he referred his findings to law enforcement authorities.

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Follow Political Writer John O'Connor at https://twitter.com/apoconnor .