Members of an elite Chicago police unit will face federal charges for shaking down drug dealers and planning a murder-for-hire against a former fellow officer and potential witness, a U.S. attorney announced.
Jerome Finnigan, 48, and three former Chicago PD officers who were members of the disbanded Special Operations Section (SOS) were charged today with federal civil rights violations for allegedly concealing unlawful searches or arrests in which they stole hordes of cash. The arrests occurred between 2003 and 2006.
The two former officers were also charged with failing to pay taxes on the illicit booty, and Finnigan is also facing a prior charge for allegedly planning to murder a fellow officer he believed would testify against him. Seven other former officers assigned to the SOS have previously pleaded guilty to state charges and been sentenced.
Finnigan and former officer Keith Herrera were charged together with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of individuals with other SOS officers. Finnigan and Herrera allegedly "routinely and regularly" performed unlawful arrests and searches during investigations, and stole cash from those arrested, as well as search locations. Finnigan's share of the money was approximately $200,000, while Herrera allegedly netted approximately $40,000.
Finnigan, who joined the Chicago PD in 1988, has remained in federal custody. He resigned from the department after his arrest in late 2007. The 33-year-old Herrera, who joined the department in 2000, has also resigned.
Charged with misdemeanor civil rights violations in separate criminal informations filed today in federal court were former officer Stephen DelBosque, 35, who joined the department in 2000 and has since resigned, and current officer Eric J. Olsen, 37, who joined the department in 1995 and is on call-back status.
"These serious charges do not reflect the conduct of the thousands of police officers who risk their lives each day to serve with honor and integrity," said Patrick J. Fitzgerald, U.S. Attorney for the northern district of Illinois. "As a result of a thorough investigation, the SOS was disbanded and other defendants were brought to justice in the state courts."
The officers are charged in several incidents that include (according to the federal indictment):
On Feb. 14, 2004, Finnigan and others arrested Person A, who was distributing two kilograms of cocaine to Person B, and caused Person A to disclose that cocaine was located in a garage on South Campbell and cash was located in Person A's residence on South Kostner. After seizing approximately 33 kilos of cocaine from the garage and $30,000 to $35,000 cash from Person A's residence, Finnigan and other officers inventoried as evidence with the department 35 kilograms of cocaine taken from Person A and the garage and only $10,000 of the money. Persons A and B were charged based on police reports that falsely stated that only $10,000 was taken from Person A's residence. Finnigan and other officers allegedly divided among themselves the $20,000 to $25,000 that they had seized but did not inventory. On March 9, 2004, Finnigan allegedly testified falsely before a Cook County grand jury that only approximately $10,000 was recovered from Person A's residence.
On Sept. 18, 2004, Finnigan and other officers made a traffic stop of Person C without a lawful basis near 47th and Central and took the keys to Person C's residence on South Luna. Without a warrant or consent, Finnigan and other officers unlawfully searched the residence and took approximately $450,000 in cash, which they divided among themselves.
On Nov. 11, 2004, Finnigan, Herrera and other officers made a traffic stop of Person D without a lawful basis on North Laramie. Without a warrant or consent, the officers unlawfully searched Person D's residence on West Hadden and took approximately $10,000 in cash, which they divided among themselves after releasing Person D. On Jan. 14, 2005, after news accounts in which Person D claimed that officers stole money, Herrera and other officers agreed to and did provide false statements to the department's Internal Affairs Division, denying an illegal search and taking any money, and falsely claiming that a certain police sergeant was present at the search of Person D's residence.
On May 17, 2005, Finnigan, Herrera and other officers made a traffic stop of Person E without a lawful basis on South Karlov. Without a warrant or consent, the officers unlawfully searched Person E's residence on South Karlov and took narcotics and approximately $30,000 in cash. The officers inventoried only $463 of the money seized and charged Person E with possession of the narcotics based on police reports that falsely stated that Person E discarded narcotics when police approached and that a total of only $463 was seized from Person E's residence. The officers divided among themselves the approximately $29,500 that was stolen. On Sept. 9, 2005, Finnigan, Herrera and other officers made a traffic stop of Person E on North Sacramento without a lawful basis and cited Person E for traffic offenses that Person E did not commit to intimidate Person E not to complain about the stolen money.
On Aug. 15, 2005, without a warrant or consent, Finnigan, Herrera and other officers unlawfully searched Person F's residence on North Keeler and unlawfully seized two firearms, 12 kilograms of cocaine, 25 pounds of marijuana and approximately $88,000 in cash. The officers inventoried the firearms, cocaine and marijuana and only $1,800 of the money taken from Person F. They caused Persons F and G to be charged based on police reports that falsely stated that Persons F and G were each arrested in possession of a firearm and the search of Person F's residence was lawful because Person F had fled and was pursued into the residence. The officers divided among themselves the approximately $86,000 that was stolen.
The tax charges allege that Finnigan failed to report on his 2004 federal income tax return approximately $174,500 in income from the money he had stolen from individuals he had arrested, and that Herrera failed to report on his 2005 federal income tax return approximately $40,000 in income from the money he had stolen from individuals he had arrested.
In late 2006, state criminal charges were brought against Finnigan and other SOS officers. The murder-for-hire charge alleges that in July and August of 2007, Finnigan discussed with a Chicago officer paying someone to kill another officer he believed would likely be a witness in the state cases.
On Sept. 18, 2007, Finnigan met with the first officer, who was then cooperating with law enforcement, in his residence and allegedly discussed the reliability and cost of hiring someone to kill the second officer. During a Sept. 21, 2007 phone call, Finnigan and the first officer agreed to meet in a parking lot where the first officer said he had found someone to kill the second officer for money, but needed a photo of the targeted officer in civilian clothes to give to the purported killer. Finnigan allegedly provided a photo and instructed the officer to wipe off any fingerprints and to handle it carefully. Finnigan was arrested on Sept. 26, 2007 and charged with using a telephone with intent to commit a murder-for-hire.
The civil rights conspiracy against Finnigan and Herrera, and the murder-for-hire charge against Finnigan alone, each carry a maximum penalty of 10 years in prison and a maximum fine of $250,000. The tax counts against each of them carry a maximum of three years in prison and a $250,000 fine. In addition, a defendant convicted of tax offenses faces mandatory costs of prosecution and remains civilly liable to the Government for any and all back taxes, as well as a civil fraud penalty of 75 percent of the underpayment plus interest.