Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Background checks for sheriff's office, police

February 25, 2009

BY FRANK MAIN Crime Reporter
The Cook County sheriff's office and the Chicago Police Department are launching new efforts to weed out bad apples.

Sheriff Tom Dart recently ordered his internal-affairs investigators to conduct background checks on every one of the office's roughly 7,000 employees, spokesman Steve Patterson said.

Under the department's rules, every sworn law enforcement officer is required to report any contact with police. If they don't, they could be fired, Patterson said. Also, any sworn officer with a felony conviction can't keep that post, he said.

"As for civilian employees, we'd look at it on a case-by-case basis," Patterson said.

The Chicago Police Department, meanwhile, is sending four officers and a sergeant through training to operate polygraph machines. Anyone applying to be an officer will have to take a lie-detector test, said Ted O'Keefe, head of the department's personnel division.

Patterson said the sheriff's office already requires people applying for sworn positions to take a polygraph test. Sworn positions include correctional officers, court deputies and police officers.

Applicants are asked about drug sales, theft, time-sheet fraud, vandalism, gang affiliations and arrests, Patterson said. Last year, 295 applicants took polygraph tests, he said.

"The test gives us tremendous insight into the backgrounds of people applying for law enforcement jobs," he said, adding, "The test results aren't the sole determining factor in deciding whether someone gets hired."

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Former fed Blakey gets top Cook County corruption-fighting post

February 19, 2009

BY RUMMANA HUSSAIN Criminal Courts Reporter
Cook County State's Attorney Anita Alvarez introduced Jack Blakey today as her office's new special prosecutions chief.

The former assistant U.S. attorney will be in charge of pursuing corruption cases, as well as organized-crime and narcotics investigations.

Blakey moves to Alvarez's staff from the office of U.S. Attorney Patrick Fitzgerald, where he was on the team that successfully prosecuted Tony Rezko on corruption charges involving state of Illinois deals under ousted Gov. Rod Blagojevich.

As Chicago Sun-Times columnist Michael Sneed reported today, crime-busting is in Blakey's blood. His father, George Robert Blakey, was the principal author of the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, known for short as the RICO law, that's often used to prosecute organized-crime figures, and is a preeminent authority on the law. The father has been a law professor at the University of Notre Dame since 1980 and, before that, also taught there from 1964 to 1969.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

2 city workers charged in park drug deal

HUMBOLDT PARK | Firefighter, Water Dept. worker accused of cocaine transaction
February 17, 2009

A 62-year-old Chicago firefighter has been charged with selling cocaine to a worker in the Department of Water Management, which was at the center of a 2005 heroin-trafficking scandal.

Fire engineer Ruben Santiago has been placed on an unpaid leave of absence after being charged Thursday with manufacture, delivery and possession of more than 15 grams of cocaine.

Waldemar Cruz, a 63-year-old Water Management rate taker who allegedly bought drugs from Santiago, was charged with felony possession of a controlled substance. His employment status was not known.

The alleged drug deal between two city employees in their 60s allegedly took place in the inner drive of Humboldt Park.

Officers from the Chicago Police Department's gang enforcement unit conducting surveillance in response to complaints of narcotics sales in Humboldt Park reportedly observed the hand-to-hand transaction.

After the 2 p.m. street sale, Santiago allegedly got into his personal vehicle and threw drugs on the ground after being stopped by police. Cruz was also driving his personal car, sources said.

"At this time, there is no indication that anything illegal was done on city time. However, the conduct alleged clearly violates the oath taken to protect life," said Fire Department spokesman Larry Langford.

In 2005, a Water Management hoisting engineer who served as a deputy voter registrar for the Hispanic Democratic Organization was accused of heading the Chicago arm of a Colombia heroin-trafficking ring. George A. Prado was arrested along with two other city employees.

Santiago's arrest marks the latest in a series of black eyes for the Chicago Fire Department.

In December, firefighter Jose Moreno was charged with sexually molesting three young children, including a 3-year-old girl and two boys, ages 5 and 6. He was hired to be their caretaker three or four times a week.

Two weeks later, another firefighter was charged with fraud and forgery; he allegedly stole natural gas after the heat was cut off at his home.

Chicago firefighters and paramedics are subject to random drug testing that traditionally yields a 1 percent positive rate, "which is good," Langford said.

Could Burris’ new statement protect him from perjury charge?

February 17, 2009

The ranking Republican on the Illinois House panel that moved to impeach former Gov. Rod Blagojevich said today he does not want to reconvene the committee to accept Sen. Roland Burris’ changed testimony.

Doing so, Rep. Jim Durkin (R-Western Springs), could give Burris an ironclad defense against perjury charges should they be brought against him by a Sangamon County prosecutor.

If House Democrats allow Burris to present his revised affidavit, “They’re quietly giving him the ability to rehabilitate himself to bar any prosecution under perjury,” Durkin said.

The provision of the perjury statute that could protect Burris reads this way:

“Where the contradictory statements are made in the same continuous trial, an admission by the offender in that same continuous trial of the falsity of a contradictory statement shall bar prosecution — under any provisions of this code.”

On Monday, state Rep. Jack Franks (D-Woodstock) became the first high-ranking House Democrat to call for the House Special Investigative Committee to be reconvened and to demand that Burris reappear and explain the discrepancies in his testimony.

“This, to me, is a very clever way to pound their fists,” Durkin said. “The greatest defenders of Mr. Burris are all of a sudden angered and troubled about the new affidavit. But they’re also winking at Sen. Burris at the same time.”

Ex-alderman Troutman sentenced to four years in prison

February 17, 2009

BY NATASHA KORECKI Federal Courts Reporter
Despite a tearful plea for mercy, proclaiming she's "no monster," former Ald. Arenda Troutman was sentenced to four years in prison on mail fraud and tax fraud charges that were part of a corruption investigation.

An emotional Troutman hung her head and apologized to her ward, the city and for bringing "shame" to her family.

"As God as my witness, I am no monster. I am not a criminal and I never helped criminals," Troutman said.

U.S. District Judge Ruben Castillo said he couldn't understand how public officials continue, year after year, to think they can get away with corruption.

"You are a walking contradiction," Castillo said. Adding "you join the hall of shame," of corrupt Illinois politicians.

Troutman, a single mother of three, said she turned on the radio this morning -- and her son heard about his mother's predicament.

"I looked at my son's face. I didn't know what to do or say but tell him I loved him and that I'm sorry," she said, crying.

"I'm sorry. I'm regretful. There's still good in me."

A prosecutor in the case said today the corruption case grew out of a probe into the Black Disciples street gang. Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Alesia said agents doing surveillance on gang kingpin Marvel Thompson saw a meeting take place between the ex-alderman and Thompson.

It was later revealed that Troutman carried on a relationship with another member of the gang, Donnell Jehan. Alesia said it was "aggravating" for law enforcement to battle gangs only to find Troutman, an alderman, had befriended gang members and used them to help her in campaigning.

"It is appalling and something the court should consider," in sentencing, Alesia said.

Alesia also revealed that on the day agents knocked on her door for her arrest, she was shredding documents having to do with the Hired Truck program and a family member who had business in that controversial program.

The Sun-Times previously revealed Troutman's family ties to the program and first reported that Troutman's shredder was still warm when agents entered her home in the 2007 raid.

Troutman admitted she coerced kickbacks totaling $21,500 over the years from developers to support their projects in her South Side ward and, in one case, outside her ward. She was famously caught on wiretaps saying that all aldermen are "ho's."

Her lawyer, Michael Gillespie, said Troutman, 51, is a single mother of three and repentant.

"Her actions are terrible," Gillespie said. "But judge, you have to look at this picture as a whole."

He spoke of doing work for affordable housing, kids, seniors and the poor.

Troutman, wearing a tan pants suit, was soft-spoken, tearful and repeatedly apologized for her actions.