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Chicago Police Officer and Tow Truck Operator Arrested in Ongoing Probe

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Chicago Police Officer and Tow Truck Operator Arrested in Ongoing Probe

FBI Chicago Office
June 30, 2010

A Chicago police officer and a private tow truck operator were arrested yesterday as part of an ongoing investigation into bribes and extortion involving the automotive towing industry in Chicago. The arrests were announced today by Robert D. Grant, Special Agent-in-Charge of the Chicago office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and Jody P. Weis, Superintendent of the Chicago Police Department (CPD).

JAMES WODNICKI, age 48, who is a 20-year veteran of the CPD assigned to uniformed patrol duties in the 14th District, which is located at 2150 North California, and GIOVANNI RODRIGUEZ, age 37, of Chicago, Illinois, were both arrested yesterday morning, without incident, by FBI special agents and officers assigned to the CPD, Internal Affairs Division. Both men were charged in separate criminal complaints filed Monday in U.S. District Court in Chicago, which were unsealed late yesterday. WODNICKI was charged with one count of attempted extortion and RODRIGUEZ was charged with one count of making a false statement, both of which are felony offenses.

According to the complaint filed against WODNICKI, he is alleged to have solicited a $150 payment from a tow truck operator who at the time, was secretly working for the FBI. The payment was made by the tow truck operator because WODNICKI allegedly had provided to him the opportunity to tow a recovered stolen automobile on July 19, 2006.

The complaint filed against RODRIGUEZ alleges that he knowingly made false statements to FBI agents during an interview that was conducted on November 10, 2006. The agents had contacted RODRIGUEZ as part of the investigation and he is alleged to have intentionally misled them by providing false answers to several material questions. It is also alleged that following the interview, RODRIGUEZ called another tow truck driver to discuss the recent interview, with the conversation intercepted and recorded by investigators.

The charges announced today are the result of a five-year multi-jurisdictional investigation, code named “Operation Tow Scam,” which is investigating allegations that CPD Officers were soliciting bribes and extorting cash and other payments from tow truck operators throughout the City of Chicago. This investigation, which is still ongoing, has thus far resulted in criminal charges being filed against eight individuals, including five current or former CPD officers. The Criminal Investigative Division of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is also participating in this investigation.

In announcing these most recent arrests, Mr. Grant said, “We take our oath to serve the public very seriously and expect all of those who enforce the law to do the same. Personal enrichment by law enforcement officers, no matter how minor, will not be tolerated.”

Superintendent Weis added, “The Chicago Police Department continues to cooperate with our law enforcement partners to investigate allegations of criminal misconduct on the part of its employees. The criminal acts alleged to have been committed by our officers in connection with this investigation do not represent the overwhelming majority of the men and women of this department, who day in and day out serve the citizens of this great city with honor, courage and selfless dedication, often at the risk of their own lives.”

WODNICKI and RODRIGUEZ both appeared before Magistrate Judge Sidney I. Schenkier in Chicago, late yesterday, at which time they were formally charged. Both men were released on bond, pending their next scheduled court appearance. If convicted of the charges filed against them, WODNICKI faces a possible sentence of twenty (20) years' incarceration, while RODRIGUEZ faces a possible sentence of five (5) years' incarceration.

The public is reminded that a complaint is not evidence of guilt and that all defendants in a criminal case are presumed innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Copies of the criminal complaints filed in this case are available from the Chicago FBI’s press office at (312) 829-1199.

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