Vito May Have Messed With the Wrong Kiddieland

Former police chief on trial for extortion of amusement park, church and more

This couldn't happen at a place called Kiddieland ... or could it.

The former police chief in west suburban Melrose Park is on trial with several co-defendants on charges of racketeering conspiracy, extortion, obstruction of justice, mail and wire fraud and filing false personal and corporate federal income tax returns.

Former Melrose Park Police Chief Vito Scavo is accused of sort of shaking down the small amusement park in Melrose Park, forcing the management to use his privately-owned security company to patrol the premises.

And Kiddieland was not alone in the dirty pool.

The Chicago Tribune reports that former police Chief Vito Scavo is accused of using "extortion and strong-arm tactics" to get bars and restaurants, Our Lady of Mt. Carmel Catholic Church and Kiddieland Amusement Park to hire his guys.

Most of those security guards were on the Melrose Park police force and, prosecutors say, some were on the clock for the city at the same time they were working for Scavo's company, "double dipping," Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Andersson said.

Andersson also claims that Scavo ran the security firm out of police headquarters.

Scavo's defense attorney, Tom Breen, said that the prosecution's case is "off-track and overcharged," the Chicagoist reported Wednesday. He pointed out that many police officers work side security gigs (although usually not at the same time as their day job), and defended Scavo's honor saying he "is a copper's cop and (has been) a darn good cop for 30 years."

Scavo was Melrose Park's police chief from 1996 to 2006, according to the Trib. 

His co-defendants are former Deputy Police Chief Gary Montino, 52, and a part-time officer, Michael Wynn, 55. The paper says the government claims Wynn assisted Scavo in the fraudulent scheme. The trial, presided over by U.S. District Court Judge Joan Gottschall, is expected to last a month.

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