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Wednesday, January 28, 2009

FBI says Cop Took $100 Per Towed Car

FBI says Chicago cop took $100 per towed car
The Chicago Sun-Times by Frank Main - January 28, 2009

A Chicago Police scandal widened today with the unsealing of federal charges against an officer for allegedly taking bribes from tow-truck operators — at least the fourth cop ensnared in the corruption probe. Officer Jimmie Akins is charged with attempted extortion for allegedly taking bribes in 2006 and 2007. Akins accepted bribes to let tow-truck operators remove vehicles from accident scenes the officer was responsible for in the Near North District, according to an affidavit by FBI Agent Craig Henderson. Akins would use his cell phone to alert the tow truck operators about accidents, Henderson said. Under police rules, cops are prohibited from advising tow operators that their services might be needed — and from recommending services to car accident victims. An informant who owns a towing company told the feds he met Akins at a nightclub in 2004 and they began a crooked business relationship, according to the affidavit. The informant allegedly started paying Akins $100 per towed car and told the FBI he towed about 20 cars from accident scenes in downtown Chicago. The informant also said he paid Akins $500 to pay off the officer’s cell phone bill.

In 2006, Akins was secretly recorded by the FBI demanding $2,300 from the informant for vehicles the informant had towed in 2005, according to the FBI. “We did one hundred a car — I got you 38 cars,” Akins allegedly told the informant. “So from the 38 cars, out of those you gave me $1,500. So the change is $2,300.” On April 21, 2006, they met at a McDonald’s and the informant paid Akins $1,000. The meeting was secretly recorded, according to the FBI. The informant paid Akins the remaining $500 about a week later, the FBI says. Meanwhile, another tow-truck operator said Akins was angry at him for not paying for tows from accident scenes. In April 2006, Akins allegedly tried to get the tow-truck operator to leave an accident scene. Akins wound up hitting the tow-truck operator, handcuffing him to a steering wheel and arresting him on charges of theft, illegally using a cell phone in a vehicle and resisting a peace officer, records show. Those charges were later thrown out. In 2007, they apparently had repaired their relationship and the tow-truck operator paid Akins at least $1,800 in exchange for towing jobs, the FBI said.

Even after the Chicago Police Department stripped Akins of his police powers because of the FBI investigation, he continued to call the tow-truck driver and inquire about accident scenes, the FBI said. Akins was still interested in getting paid for towing jobs, according to the FBI. In one secretly recorded meeting with the second tow-truck operator, Akins told him that he expected an additional $2,000 for billings on repairs to vehicles towed from accident scenes, the FBI said. Three other cops have been charged in the corruption investigation, which involves at least five Chicago Police districts and began in 2003. In April 2008, federal prosecutors charged Chicago Police Officer Scott Campbell with setting up a scheme to make it look as if someone had stolen his 1996 green Volkswagen Passat.

Federal prosecutors said Campbell arranged to have the car taken and sold in pieces. State Farm Insurance paid Campbell about $4,000 for what they believed was a stolen vehicle. Joseph DeMichael of Chicago was charged with scheming with Campbell by taking the car home, dismantling it and selling the parts. In March 2008, Chicago Police Officer Michael J. Ciancio, who also served as an assistant athletic director at a west suburban high school, was accused of extorting up to $800 a week from a tow truck company. He pleaded guilty in federal court earlier this month and is awaiting sentencing May 13. Chicago Police Officer Joseph Grillo and Collision Towing owner Jim “Meatball” Athans were previously charged in the investigation. Grillo and Athans were charged with helping Campbell carry out the insurance scam. Grillo, who pleaded not guilty, is scheduled to change his plea on Feb. 17, records show.

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