Widow of Fox Lake cop charged with money laundering, misuse of funds – Chicago Tribune
The widow of Fox Lake police Lt. Charles Joseph Gliniewicz was indicted Wednesday on felony charges of misuse of charitable funds and money laundering, stemming from what authorities have said was her husband’s theft from a village-controlled fund before his death almost five months ago.
Authorities have said that Lt. Gliniewicz took his life Sept. 1 — staging it to look like he was shot by three suspects he was pursuing — amid fears that his “extensive criminal acts” were about to be exposed.
Wednesday, authorities formally charged his wife, Melodie Gliniewicz, with being an accomplice to those acts. Her lawyers, however, contended in a statement Wednesday that she was “a victim of her husband’s secret actions.”
The case against Melodie Gliniewicz, 51, was presented to a grand jury Wednesday morning in Lake County, and charges were announced Wednesday afternoon. An arrest warrant with a $50,000 bond was issued for Gliniewicz, who was seen arriving at the courthouse to turn herself in.
Authorities said they believe more than $10,000 was misspent from accounts that were supposed to support the youth Police Explorers chapter that Lt. Gliniewicz ran in town for about two decades.
Officials said detectives determined funds intended for the Police Explorers were used by the couple to pay for, among other things, a vacation in Hawaii and trips to Fox Lake Theatre, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts and more than 400 other restaurant charges.
If convicted of the criminal charges, Melodie Gliniewicz could receive a possible prison sentence or probation.
As she was walked through the Lake County Sheriff’s Office on Wednesday afternoon before her first court appearance on the charges, Gliniewicz kept her eyes cast down and did not comment. Her attorneys later released a statement saying she was “devastated” by the indictment.
“Melodie has suffered greatly over the past few months and continues to move her family forward after the emotionally traumatizing events of September 1, 2015,” the statement said. “Considering Melodie’s cooperation with law enforcement, she is devastated by the decision to bring charges against her. Melodie is a victim of her husband’s secret actions and looks forward to her day in Court to show the world her innocence. Melodie requests that the media respect her and her children’s privacy.”
The announcement was another stunning turn of events for Fox Lake and the Gliniewicz family. Melodie Gliniewicz, along with the couple’s four sons, gained nationwide attention and sympathy after the lieutenant’s shooting, which was first widely assumed to be a line-of-duty death.
Melodie Gliniewicz tearfully spoke at a lakeside vigil held the night after Lt. Gliniewicz died, and images of her standing before her husband’s coffin at his Labor Day funeral — attended by hundreds with hundreds more lining the streets for a procession of law enforcement vehicles accompanying the coffin — became emblematic of the community’s grief over a fallen officer.
“We all lost somebody yesterday,” Melodie Gliniewicz told the crowd at the vigil. “A husband, a father, a son, a brother, a mentor, a leader, a role model and a friend. And of course, a brother in blue.
“Joe was my best friend, my world … the love of my life for the last 26 and a half years,” she continued, reading from a yellow sheet of paper and surrounded by four sons. “He was my rock as much as I was his rock. Every night, he came home to me.”
Weeks later, after some media began reporting the theory that the officer took his own life but staged the scene to look like a slaying, his widow agreed to a TV interview in which she strongly refuted that possibility and said she was angered that it had been considered.
In an interview with Crime Watch Daily, Gliniewicz said she was angered when authorities first raised the possibility of suicide.
“I wholeheartedly believe he was murdered. … (To say otherwise is) disrespectful, hurtful, irresponsible,” she said.
“There were things that were happening in our life that people who commit suicide would never do. He’d already applied for chiefs jobs in other towns. He was retiring out. We were planning vacations. He lived for these things,” Gliniewicz told Crime Watch Daily.
On Nov. 4, the commander of the Lake County Major Crime Task Force said Lt. Gliniewicz took his own life and at least two people were under investigation in connection with years of alleged thefts.
Wednesday, though, a task force spokesman said the financial investigation is complete and no related additional charges in Lake County are expected.
All charges were related to funds set up for the Explorers youth policing training program that Lt. Gliniewicz ran for many years, spokesman Chris Covelli said.
George Filenko, commander of the task force, estimated the money stolen by Lt. Gliniewicz — spent on mortgage payments, travel and adult websites — totaled a five-figure sum.
Though authorities declined at the time to comment on whether any of the officer’s family members were under investigation, an investigator for the Lake County state’s attorney’s office said Lt. Gliniewicz and his wife “exerted unauthorized control over funds belonging to the Fox Lake Explorer program,” according to court records released in November.
The records were made public by Melodie Gliniewicz’s attorneys as they sought to overturn a court order freezing checking and savings accounts.
In a new release announcing the indictment, authorities said Wednesday that they found “inconsistencies in financial documents” as they investigated Lt. Gliniewicz’s death.
“Specifically, it appeared non-business-related monies had been withdrawn and money laundering had occurred involving the finances of the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post,” the release said, adding that Melodie Gliniewicz “was also found to hold a fiduciary role as an adult advisor with the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post.”
A team of investigators from the sheriff’s office “analyzed over 10,000 pages of document, requested additional bank/business records via subpoena, requested several additional items/documents from the Village of Fox Lake, and conducted several interviews,” the announcement read.
“The investigation revealed money was withdrawn from the police explorer account over the course of several years. Detectives determined this money was used to finance a number of personal expenses and personal finances,” Undersheriff Ray Rose said in a prepared statement.
The court records released by Melodie Gliniewicz’s attorneys in November show prosecutors were looking into several bank accounts and credit cards Lt. Gliniewicz had access to, some of which appeared to have been used for both personal expenses and the business of the Explorers.