The investigation into the suicide of a suburban Illinois police officer may have shone a light on a ring of corruption that could lead to many more arrests, according to officials in Fox Lake, where Joe Gliniewicz staged his own death to look like a murder as authorities were unraveling his long-running embezzlement of a local community program.
The cop, whose Sept. 7 funeral was attended by thousands of law enforcement agents from around the country who believed he had been murdered in the line of duty, is now believed to have plundered the Fox Lake Explorer program he ran for years of possibly hundreds of thousands of dollars.
The scale and audacity of the 52-year-old cop corruption has local officials convinced he could not have acted alone.
“I think there were other people involved,” said Fox Lake City Administrator Anne Marrin. “As we learn more we’ll find out who.”
Marrin suspects other people –potentially city employees– knew about the crooked officer’s criminal activity and could have helped keep it under the radar. When asked if other people could face criminal charges, Marrin said, “I would assume so.”
Gliniewicz, who was known as “G.I. Joe” throughout the community of 10,000, some 50 miles north of Chicago, used money earmarked for the Boy Scout-linked program to fund vacations, gym memberships, adult websites and gifts to his wife, son and mistress, according to authorities.
Federal authorities are investigating the case and interviewing key potential witnesses in the area, including Lake County Coroner Dr. Thomas Rudd, who oversaw the controversial autopsy on Gliniewicz. Rudd says investigators recently showed him two checking accounts that were under the sole control of Gliniewicz totaling $360,000.
“There seems to be a large amount of money in two of these accounts we saw and I’m wondering where are these other monies coming from,” Rudd said. “I think there’s going to be further investigation on these checking accounts.”
Rudd said the accounts appear to be tied to the Fox Lake Explorer program, the young adult “police academy” that Glineiwicz dedicated most of his adult life to. The group has been disbanded because its “outrageous” mismanagement.The burgeoning checking accounts have raised eyebrows because annually the Explorer program had only a few dozen members, typically minors, and was considered to be a small operation running almost entirely off donations and fundraisers.
“Where does an explorer account get a quarter of a million dollars?” Rudd said.
After Gliniewicz’s death it was discovered that he was embezzling from the Explorer program and also acquiring large amounts of surplus military material through federal programs intended for official police use. Fox News viewed some of the items, which Gliniewicz kept locked in a community building basement that served as the headquarters for the Explorer program.
They included dozens of military-grade helmets, pellet guns and bulletproof vests. Marrin says the city was shocked to find these types of supplies, saying they are intended for police use and not appropriate for the Explorer program.
Marrin says the city is actively trying to account for all the surplus material Gliniewicz acquired and determining if any of it ended up in the wrong hands.
The death of Gliniewicz on Sept. 1, which came amid tensions between police and citizens in several communities around the country, made national headlines. Gliniewicz last radioed in that he was on foot pursuit with three suspects in a rural area. Investigators found him shot to death and pursued the case as a homicide. He was given a hero’s burial attended by thousands of police officers from around the country.
But a two-month probe revealed that Gliniewicz actually shot himself in an elaborate scheme. Police say he was caving under the pressure that his double-life was about be exposed.
Police say over the course of seven years, Gliniewicz stole tens of thousands of dollars from the Explorer program, had his eldest son marry his own mistress for the military marriage benefits and looked into having Marrin killed by a hit man because she was onto his misconduct.
“It’s crazy. I can’t describe it any other way,” Marrin said. “It’s unheard of in our profession that anyone would think to do something like that and it just shows the emotional state that he must have been in over all of this and knowing that we were getting closer to finding out what was really going on.”