Jerome Finnigan, the face of a scandal involving the Special Operations Section (SOS) of the Chicago Police Department says, with a well-placed phone call, he helped squelch an internal investigation into wrong-doing that he was a part of.
Finnigan’s comments are in an article in the April edition of Playboy magazine by Chicago writer Hillel Levin.
Finnigan is currently serving a 12-year sentence in a federal prison in Florida. He pleaded guilty to charges in a murder-for-hire scheme and income tax evasion, relating to money he stole as a police officer.
In 2005, according to the article, after NBC5 News reported the family of then-18-year-old Miguel Melesio complained to Chicago Police that officers had stolen $13,000 from their home, Finnigan said a phone call to a high ranking member of the Internal Affairs Division stopped the investigation. Finnigan was among the officers who stopped Melesio, without probable cause, and entered his house, according to court records.
Melesio was never charged with any crime. His family ultimately sued and settled with the city of Chicago.
Finnigan, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in 2011, told Levin the group’s stealing from suspects was more widespread than what the public knows. He told Playboy he knows of 19 officers who stole cash and personal possessions during SOS searches.
“He further charges that commanding officers knew about the stealing and that the civil rights violations were condoned at the highest levels of the police department,” according to the article.
In his plea agreement, Finnigan stipulated that he unlawfully stopped and detained persons, conducted illegal searches, and arrested individuals based on false evidence.
SOS gained notoriety in 2006, when Finnigan and others were indicted for breaking into homes without warrants, and stealing money from and even kidnapping suspects. SOS was disbanded in 2007.
Another officer, Keith Herrera, is awaiting sentencing. Two other officers were federally convicted, and seven more officers were convicted of lesser state charges.
The most egregious theft listed in the article was when Finnigan and two partners stole $450,000. The group, according to the article, stopped a driver of a pickup truck and handcuffed and frisked him. Then, with guns drawn, they searched his house, finding a leather bag filled with bricks of cash. Finnigan split the money with the two officers, according to the article in Playboy.
Finnigan sat down for two interviews with the author and traded nearly 100 pages of personal letters with him.
A spokeswoman for the Chicago Police Department said in an e-mail to NBC5 News that Finnigan is a convicted felon and his claims “are without merit.” The Chicago Police Department, otherwise, declined to be interviewed.
Mike Chamernik, a DePaul University journalism student, contributed to this article.