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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Northern District of Illinois

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Final Defendant Sentenced In Operation Tow Scam 15 Defendants Convicted And Sentenced

CHICAGO — Former Chicago police officer Francis Zoller was the final defendant to be sentenced today in the six year investigation Operation Tow Scam, led by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  Zoller, 46, of Chicago, pled guilty on June 11, 2014 to one count of attempted extortion under color of official right and one count of mail fraud.  U.S. District Court Judge Samuel Der-Yeghiayan sentenced Zoller to 12 months and one day in prison, followed by a term of one year of supervised release.  Judge Der-Yeghiayan also ordered Zoller to pay restitution in the amount of $14,020, and to report to the Bureau of Prisons on August 11, 2015. 

According to the court documents, Zoller engaged in a pattern of extortion of tow truck drivers and was also willing to stage an accident with one of them which led an insurance company to issue a check for $17,000 for damage that never occurred.  Zoller used the authority of his office to extort money from his favored tow drivers, but he also misused his office to privilege those drivers over other towing companies who sought to obtain vehicle tows at accidents.  “Zoller’s misuse of his authority on the streets of Chicago harmed the Chicago Police Department, the citizens he was sworn to protect and the tow truck drivers who were trying to make a living at accident scenes,” argued Assistant U.S. Attorney Michael Donovan in the government’s sentencing memorandum.

In total, 15 defendants were charged with extortion, tax fraud, lying to federal agents and accessing federal law enforcement database information.  Of the 15 defendants, 14 pled guilty and one was convicted at trial.  Of the 15 defendants, 11 are former police officers, including Zoller.  Those convicted in connection to the Operation were: 


Jimmie Akins, former CPD officer, pled guilty to attempted extortion under color of official right and filing a false tax return, and was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment;

Michael Ciancio, formerCPD officer, pled guilty to attempted extortion under color of official right, and was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment;

Scott Campbell, former CPD officer, pled guilty to mail fraud and tax misdemeanor, and was sentenced to one year of probation;

Joseph Grillo, formerCPD officer, pled guilty to mail fraud, and was sentenced to two years probation;

James Athans, pled guilty tomail fraud and tax fraud and was sentenced to a year and a day in prison;

Joseph DeMichael, pled guilty to mail fraud, and was sentenced to two years probation;      

Juan Prado, former CPD officer,pled guilty to attempted extortion under color of official right, and was sentenced to 46 months imprisonment;

James Wodnicki, former CPD officer, pled guilty to attempted extortion under color of official right and was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment;

Marcos Hernandez, formerCPD officer, pled guilty to improper access of a federal database, and was sentenced to two years probation;

Givoanni Rodriguez, pled guilty to making false statements to a federal officer, and was sentenced to two years probation;

Deavalin Page, former CPD officer,convicted after a jury trial of attempted extortion under color of official right, and was sentenced to 51 months imprisonment;

Gregory Garibay, former CPD officer, pled guilty to attempted extortion under color of official right and mail fraud, and was sentenced to 24 months imprisonment;

Brian Chandler, pled guilty to wire fraud and bank larceny, and was sentenced to 20 months imprisonment;

Ali Haleem, former CPD officer,pled guilty to attempted extortion under color of official right and selling firearms to a felon, and was sentenced to 15 months imprisonment. 

 Zoller’s sentence was announced by Zachary T. Fardon, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, and Robert J. Holley, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.  The Chicago Police Department, Office of Internal Affairs, and the Internal Revenue Service, Criminal Investigative Division, assisted in the investigation.         

The government was represented by Assistant United States Attorneys Michael Donovan and Maggie Schneider.

Updated July 23, 2015