Schaumburg Officer Accused in Drug Ring Faces Trial This Week

John Cichy looks to the gallery filled with his family and friends, Jan. 31, 2013, during an appearance in DuPage County Court in Wheaton. His attorney, Jay Fuller, at left, appear before Judge Blanche Hill Fawell.

Illinois – John Cichy arrived late to a scheme by rogue Schaumburg police officers to shake down drug dealers but was a willing participant once he joined, prosecutors allege.

Now, as Cichy is set to stand trial Tuesday, his fate may rest in the hands of the two fellow tactical officers who were arrested alongside him and later admitted to stealing from dealers and selling the drugs for their own profit.

“Me and Terry (O’Brien), we’ve been doing (expletive) a lot longer,” former Schaumburg officer Matthew Hudak told an alleged dealer in an undercover recording. “John just got to the unit later, and it’s been about a year.”

Cichy, Hudak and Terrance O’Brien were members of Schaumburg’s now-disbanded special investigations division, which worked undercover on drugs and gangs. For at least six months in 2012 and 2013, authorities allege, they ran a ring that confiscated contraband from dealers, then sold it through their own dealers and informants.

Allegations that the officers had become corrupt — participating in the very crimes they were supposed to be stopping — came to light after a man found with nearly 10 ounces of cocaine told Carol Stream police that he was selling it for the cops, prosecutors said.

Working with the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration, authorities said they used the informant to get recordings of the officers discussing their plan. Investigators set up a sting, planting $20,000 in a storage locker, and said they caught the officers on surveillance video stealing the money. The men later returned the cash, but then took it again, and Cichy at one point lifted his mask to reveal his face, prosecutors said.

Federal agents arrested the officers in a parking lot outside of Woodfield Mall — a bombshell that rocked the northwest suburban community most known as a shopping destination. Officials said they found $10,000 of the bait money in Hudak’s home and $5,000 each with O’Brien and Cichy.

After their arrests, O’Brien told investigators that the trio committed the crimes “for the thrill of it,” according to a DuPage County prosecutor.

At the officers’ first court hearing, only Cichy showed emotion, holding his head in his hands and choking back tears as officials outlined the allegations against him.

That the officers “so blatantly abused that (public) trust is abhorrent,” prosecutors wrote in court documents. “They considered themselves above the law.”

Hudak, now 34, and O’Brien, 51, pleaded guilty to corruption, narcotics and other charges and were sentenced to 26 and 24 years in prison, respectively. With good-behavior credit they could serve about half that.

All three officers resigned from the department.

Court documents show prosecutors plan to call Hudak and O’Brien to testify against Cichy when the trial for the 35-year-old Streamwood man gets underway this week, more than five years after the trio were arrested.

Cichy was soon freed on $25,000 cash bond and has said that he’s become a devout Christian. At one point, he posted a YouTube video announcing plans to tell his story to help others. His attorney, Jay Fuller, advised his client against that but said Cichy is working as a church minister.

Fuller described Cichy as a “family guy” and native South Sider who’s close to his parents and brothers.

“He lived a clean, law-abiding life and got mixed up with the wrong folks,” Fuller said. “He’s found faith and relies on that for strength. If you met him, you wouldn’t think he’d be involved in this.”

The defense will likely attack the credibility of the state’s witnesses, both the disgraced cops and drug dealers.

Cichy is charged with armed violence, calculated criminal drug conspiracy, unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, attempted burglary and official misconduct. Prosecutors allege that he delivered between 100 and 400 grams of cocaine to a drug dealer, for the purpose of selling it and splitting the profits with the other two cops. That man is also expected to be a key witness.

Prosecutors said the outlaw unit would confiscate drugs from dealers, report only a small portion, then have other dealers sell the rest and split the profits.

To illustrate that process, recently filed court documents suggest that prosecutors plan to call to the stand an East Dundee man who was questioned in 2012 by the three officers about cocaine and heroin in a safe in his home. Cichy told the man he was lucky he was charged for only a small part of the drugs that tested positive and he would not be extradited if he fled to Mexico, according to the court records.

The case was previously scheduled for trial at least twice but was delayed when the defense accused prosecutors of late disclosure of evidence, including a video of the arrests in the case and Hudak’s writings about the case while in jail.

The case was also delayed when prosecutors appealed a ruling that they could not introduce as evidence a separate deal by Hudak and O’Brien in which they planned to profit from drug sales but not share with Cichy. An appellate court upheld the ruling, so that information will not be presented at the trial.

Cichy waived his right to a trial by jury, so the case will be heard by DuPage County Circuit Judge Liam Brennan.

At his sentencing, Hudak called the whole experience “the darkest chapter of my life.”

Unlike O’Brien, Hudak’s plea deal does not require him to testify against Cichy. If Hudak is called as a witness, his lawyer Thomas Glasgow said he may advise Hudak not to testify to avoid self-incrimination against additional charges. Prosecutors did not return a call for comment.

The arrests shook the Schaumburg Police Department and prompted a review by a hired consultant, which recommended dozens of reforms and concluded the officers had too little supervision in the Special Investigations Unit. That was later replaced by a unit whose officers do not work undercover or in plainclothes but who investigate drug-related and other recurring street-level crimes.

The department has called the three officers’ arrests “an unfortunate chapter (that is) closed and behind us.”

As a result of the charges against the officers, prosecutors dismissed about 20 criminal drug possession cases and had at least one conviction overturned. The village was also sued at least 16 times and settled most of the lawsuits, officials said.

Weeks after the men were arrested, Schaumburg police Chief Brian Howerton announced his retirement following an investigation into allegations that he harassed a former girlfriend, which he denied.


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Filming Cops
Filming Cops 5618 posts

Filming Cops was started in 2010 as a conglomerative blogging service documenting police abuse. The aim isn’t to demonize the natural concept of security provision as such, but to highlight specific cases of State-monopolized police brutality that are otherwise ignored by traditional media outlets.

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