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Former Police Chief Sentenced to 63 Months in Federal Prison for Fraud in ‘Shake Down’ Prostitution Sting

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
May 18, 2010

Urbana, Ill. – A former chief of police was ordered to serve 63 months in federal prison for running a fraud scheme wherein individuals arrested during prostitution stings made payments to the chief to resolve their cases. Chief U.S. District Judge Michael P. McCuskey sentenced Scott J. Fitts, 42, the former chief of police for the village of Grant Park, Illinois, and ordered that he report to the federal Bureau of Prisons on July 7, 2010, to begin serving his prison sentence.

“Our criminal justice system is deeply rooted in the fundamental principles of trust, honor and equal protection for all,” said U.S. Attorney Jeffrey B. Lang. “Mr. Fitts, however, selfishly exploited his position to not only breach the public’s trust, but also to betray the trust of law enforcement officers who daily dedicate their lives to honorably serve and protect us all.”

Stu McArthur, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Springfield Division, said, “Mr. Fitts tarnished the badge that all of us in law enforcement wear proudly. The American people deserve and expect integrity in their law enforcement officials. When public officials abuse the public trust, the FBI will be there, together with our law enforcement partners, to enforce the law and restore that trust.”

Al Patton, Special Agent in Charge, IRS Criminal Investigation Division, stated that, "Today's sentence sends a loud message that public corruption will not be tolerated. All Americans have a duty to pay their fair share and the IRS Criminal Investigation Division is aggressively serving the American public by investigating criminal violations of the Internal Revenue Code. It is our mission to assure honest taxpayers that everyone pays their fair share. No one is above the law.”

On May 28, 2009, Fitts pled guilty to operating an elaborate scheme in 2006 that ultimately resulted in nearly all of the 100 individuals arrested as a result of five prostitution stings making cash payments to Fitts to resolve their respective charges.

During court hearings and in court documents, Fitts admitted he paid for a woman to travel from Texas on five occasions in 2006 to pose as a prostitute to lure individuals to be arrested by the Grant Park police department for solicitation of prostitution.

Fitts met the woman in November 2005, when he was employed as a Special Agent with the U.S. Department of Labor and she was arrested in Chicago on allegations of prostitution. Fitts admitted that he instructed the woman to advertise on an Internet website. When individuals responded to the ad at a Manteno motel, the woman instructed them to take a shower. When they did, they were arrested and the cash the individuals had with them to pay the prostitute, typically $300, as well as any other cash in their possession, was seized and they were transported to Grant Park to the police department. Individuals were generally required to post $100 cash bond to be released, as well as a $500 cash bond for release of their vehicle.

Those arrested were informed that they had been arrested for solicitation of prostitution and could be prosecuted. Further, their name and address might be placed in the newspaper, on the Internet or on a police department website. Many were falsely informed that the sting operation was a joint federal, state and local investigation and, that the woman was an undercover federal agent.

Fitts admitted that as part of the fraud, he offered individuals what he termed a “plea agreement” if they paid a fine, typically $3,500, and waived any right to the money seized from them. In exchange, their case would be dismissed, no prosecution would occur, and their names would not be disclosed to media or posted on a website.

As a result of the scheme, Fitts admitted he diverted approximately $224,760 in payments from those arrested for his own use. From Feb. 14, 2006 to Sept. 7, 2006, Fitts made cash deposits and payments totaling approximately $198,107 to personal bank accounts, payments on personal loans, at a casino, and to a landscaping company. Further, approximately $20,000 in Grant Park village funds were diverted to Fitts’ personal use when he submitted fraudulent payroll records reflecting that officers had worked certain days and then used the payroll checks for his personal benefit.

Fitts pled guilty to one count each of wire fraud, filing a false individual income tax return for tax year 2006 for failing to report income received from the stings and payroll checks payable to others, and structuring a monetary transaction.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Internal Revenue Service Criminal Investigation Division conducted the investigation. The case was prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Eugene L. Miller.

Citizens are encouraged to actively report corruption, wherever it exists, through the FBI public corruption hotline:1-877-U-TIP-OFF or at www.fbi.gov

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