2 Investigators: Suburb Wasted Drug-Forfeiture Money

(CBS) – One million dollars. That is the amount Willow Springs had to give back to the federal government as punishment for how it spent money seized from criminals.

CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini exposes allegations about boats, motorcycles and questionable spending.

A 2013 Firehawk 26-foot boat with a water cannon and a Ford F-250 towing it are just two of the purchases made with drug money seized by former Willow Springs Police Sgt. Mike Giorgetti.

Giorgetti spent a decade working undercover for the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, on loan from Willow Springs.

In exchange, a portion of the cash and assets he helped confiscate went back to the village in what is called an “Equitable Sharing” program. Giorgetti says the amount as in the millions.

Some of that money helped pay for the $300,000 boat, which was “not being used properly,” Giorgetti says.

A federal audit found it was not being used as it was supposed to be — to patrol the waterways, which has a chemical plant in the area.  The audit questioned the purchase because it was barely used.

Sources say the boat was allegedly used for a pleasure cruise taken from Willow Springs to the Chicago lakefront for a day of fun at the Taste of Chicago. Willow Springs officials deny this.

This year, a U.S. Department of Justice audit of the funds also raised questions about the boat and how Willow Springs handled $828,762 in Equitable Sharing money. It called more than $116,000 spent on 13 barely used vehicles “unnecessary and wasteful.”

This included two Harley Davidson motorcycles that cost $44,126. The Harleys were upgraded with new wheels, chrome and heated handgrips for another $23,562.

Another spending issue cited was excessive travel costs, including paying for hotel rooms to attend training that was only 14 miles away from Willow Springs.

Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart’s office was tipped off to the boat being used for entertainment.

“There is no excuse for those type of things to ever occur,” Dart says. “There’s none. There’s absolutely none.”

The boat is now with the Chicago Fire Department.

A DOJ official says Willow Springs is now officially kicked out of the Equitable Sharing program.

“We found a lot of very concerning things when we looked into this,” Dart says.

Willow Springs officials declined an interview but pointed to Giorgetti and other officers as central figures in what went wrong.  Giorgetti was fired in 2014 over allegations that included claims he lied under oath.

Giorgetti disputes all allegations.

Below are the complete and unedited statements from Willow Springs and the Justice Department.

 

WILLOW SPRINGS:

Willow Springs trusted the decisions made by now-former police personnel. Unfortunately, they were trusted too much.

Mr. Georgetti, who a judge determined repeatedly lied under oath amid an investigation into his misuse of taxpayer resources, personally oversaw this fund and often used his home address to secure bids for purchases. An investigation determined Mr. Georgetti and other officers used village resources for personal gain and falsified reports, leading to their resignations, terminations and retirements.

Records show the village has processed no funds through this program since Mr. Georgetti was fired more than two years ago.

Because of the conditions agreed to by Mr. Georgetti in purchasing the boat, it was only able to be used five times in four months. He used these funds to attend training in California to be certified to operate the boat, but came back unable to provide any proof of certification. It is unclear how he spent that time, but his actions clearly impacted the village’s ability to operate the vessel. Sworn testimony during proceedings to terminate Mr. Georgetti also revealed that the boat was never taken out for non-law enforcement purposes.

Finally, an internal investigation found a former chief approved several requests by Mr. Georgetti and other officers to stay at local hotels while attending nearby law enforcement conferences with funds seized from criminals. The village has since prohibited such expenses.

These findings have been forwarded to the U.S. Department of Justice and Cook County State’s Attorney for further review.

 

 

U.S. DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE:

Because of the egregious nature of the audit’s findings and the agency’s inability to remedy those findings as part of our compliance review, the Justice Department has found the agency to be ineligible to participate in the Equitable Sharing Program. They are required to return any equitable sharing funds on hand.

Our records indicate that in 2015, the agency both received equitable sharing payments and submitted requests for equitable sharing.

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