One Current and Three Former Chicago Police Officers, Once Assigned to Disbanded Elite SOS Unit, Charged with Federal Civil Rights Violations

CHICAGO—One current and three former Chicago police officers who were members of the disbanded Special Operations Section (SOS), an elite city-wide unit, were charged today with federal civil rights violations for allegedly presenting false information and testimony to conceal unlawful searches or arrests during which hordes of cash were often stolen between 2003 and 2006. Two of the former officers were also charged with federal tax offenses, and one of them, Jerome A. Finnigan, is also facing a charge that was filed against him previously for allegedly planning the murder-for-hire of a former fellow officer who was a potential witness against him. The civil rights charges are new, and the other three defendants were charged with federal crimes for the first time today, following a lengthy joint state and federal investigation of the activities of rogue officers within the disbanded special unit. Seven other former officers assigned to the SOS have previously pleaded guilty to state charges and been sentenced.

Finnigan and former officer Keith A. Herrera were charged together with conspiracy to violate the civil rights of individuals, in concert with other unnamed officers assigned to the SOS. Finnigan and Herrera allegedly “routinely and regularly” performed unlawful arrests and searches while conducting criminal investigations, and, when the opportunity arose, stole cash for their own benefit from those arrested and the places being searched. The charges allege that Finnigan’s share of the money stolen in 2004 and 2005 totaled approximately $200,000, while Herrera allegedly netted approximately $40,000 in 2005—all of which came from a larger pool of approximately $600,000 that allegedly was stolen in five separate episodes in 2004 and 2005.

All four defendants, through their attorneys, have authorized the government to disclose that they will be pleading guilty to the charges filed today. Finnigan and Herrera are also facing related state charges, and the Cook County State’s Attorney’s Office intends to dismiss those cases after the federal charges are resolved.

Finnigan, 48, who joined the police department in 1988, has remained in federal custody and resigned from the department since he was arrested in September 2007. Herrera, 33, who joined the department in 2000, also has since resigned. They were each charged with one count of civil rights conspiracy and one count of filing a false federal income tax return, and Finnigan alone faces one count of murder-for-hire. Both will be arraigned at a later date in U.S. District Court.

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. Both of them have also authorized the government to disclose that they will be pleading guilty to the charges, and will be arraigned at a later date in U.S. District Court.

“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, United States Attorney for the Northen 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.”

Mr. Fitzgerald announced the federal charges with Anita Alvarez, Cook County State’s Attorney; Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation; and Alvin Patton, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division.

The civil rights conspiracy count alleges that Finnigan and Herrera, together with other unnamed SOS officers, used and agreed to use their position and authority as police officers to unlawfully stop and detain individuals, to unlawfully search individuals and residences, to deprive individuals of money without due process of law, and to cause individuals to be charged with offenses based upon false evidence.

According to the charges:

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; and

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 September and December 2006, state criminal charges were brought against Finnigan and other SOS officers, who were then suspended from duty, for allegedly abusing their police powers to unlawfully arrest and search individuals, search residences and seize property. The murder-for-hire charge alleges that in July and August 2007, Finnigan discussed with Chicago Police Officer 1 paying someone to kill Chicago Police Officer 2, who Finnigan believed would likely be a witness in one or more of the state cases.

On Sept. 18, 2007, Finnigan met with Officer 1, who was then cooperating with law enforcement, in Finnigan’s residence and allegedly discussed the reliability and cost of hiring someone to kill Officer 2, and suggested that Officer 1 could also try to find someone to kill Officer 2. On Sept. 21, 2007, Finnigan spoke by phone with Officer 1 and they agreed to meet in a parking lot where Officer 1 told Finnigan that he had found someone to kill Officer 2 for money, but needed a photo of Officer 2 in civilian clothes to give to the purported killer. Finnigan allegedly provided such a photo and instructed Officer 1 to wipe off any fingerprints and to handle it carefully. Later that evening, Finnigan and Officer 1 again spoke by phone and agreed that Office 1 could come by Finnigan’s residence immediately to get Officer 2's new address. Finnigan was arrested on Sept. 26, 2007, and charged in a complaint with using a telephone with intent to commit a murder-for-hire and has remained in federal custody since then.

Regarding DelBosque, the charges allege that on Dec. 2, 2005, he testified falsely before a state grand jury that Person A had dropped a bag containing two bricks of cocaine when approached by SOS officers on Nov. 4, 2005, in front of a residence on North Normandy. In fact, DelBosque was present and knew that Person A did not possess narcotics when arrested. SOS officers then unlawfully searched the residence and detached garage on North Normandy and found four firearms in the residence and 101 kilos of cocaine in the garage. The officers prepared a police report falsely stating that they had a lawful basis to arrest Person A when they approached and the person dropped a bag containing two bricks of cocaine.

Regarding Olsen, the charges allege that on April 21, 2004, he testified falsely at a state court preliminary hearing that he had arrested Person A for drug possession after he observed Person A publicly consuming alcohol outside a tavern on West 63rd and could see a plastic bag consistent with narcotics packaging protruding from Person A’s waistband. In fact, on March 27, 2004, Olsen allegedly had conducted an unlawful search of Person A, who was then a patron in the tavern, and found cocaine.

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.

The misdemeanor civil rights charges against DelBosque and Olsen carry a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $100,000 fine. Upon conviction of any of the crimes charged, the Court must impose a reasonable sentence under the advisory United States Sentencing Guidelines. The government is being represented by Assistant U.S. Attorney Brian Netols and Cook County Assistant State’s Attorneys Jack Blakey and Lynn McCarthy, who also serve as Special Assistant U.S. Attorneys.

The public is reminded that an information contains only charges and is not evidence of guilt. The defendants are presumed innocent and are entitled to a fair trial at which the government has the burden of proving guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. www.fbi.gov

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