Ex-North Chicago top cop charged with stealing drug funds
BY JON SEIDEL firstname.lastname@example.org October 30, 2012 3:58PM
Updated: December 30, 2012 1:23AM
Lake County prosecutors accused North Chicago’s former police chief Tuesday of an “ongoing and lucrative scheme” to steal money from a fund where the city collected cash from drug arrests before he left his job as the city’s top cop.
Michael Newsome, 51, is charged two counts of theft — the first a Class X felony alleging he stole more than $100,000 — along with charges of official misconduct and misapplication of funds.
He surrendered Tuesday after prosecutors filed the charges, authorities said. His bail was initially set at $100,000, but lowered to $25,000 after a bond hearing Tuesday afternoon. He is due back in court for a preliminary hearing Nov. 27.
“If the former chief is found guilty of these charges, it represents an enormous betrayal of the trust we placed in him to keep our community safe and to manage already scarce funds responsibly and legally,” said Mayor Leon Rockingham in a statement announcing the charges along with Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller.
Neither Newsome nor his attorney could immediately be reached for comment.
Rockingham and Waller declined in their statement to say when Newsome allegedly stole the money or how much was taken. The second count of theft against him alleges he took between $500 and $10,000, though, and the two officials said it was taken from the city’s asset forfeiture funds, where money seized from illegal drug deals is collected.
The missing money was discovered after Newsome resigned in February in the wake of the Nov. 13, 2011, death of Darrin “Dagwood” Hanna after being arrested by police. At that time, Rockingham named James Jackson, a retired Chicago police commander, as the interim police chief and told him to review all the internal police policies to ensure the department was operating properly.
That’s when he said Jackson came upon questionable withdrawals from the account and contacted the state’s attorney’s office.
“Today’s charges are the result of a nine-month investigation,” Waller said. “The city of North Chicago was our partner in this investigation and its assistance throughout has proven invaluable.”
Rockingham also said he wants City Attorney Chuck Smith to review Waller’s investigation to find out if the stolen money can be returned to North Chicago.
“I am deeply disappointed that the man who headed the North Chicago Police Department for nearly seven years now stands accused of having misappropriated money from this fund,” Rockingham said. “While I understand that Mr. Newsome is presumed innocent of the charges against him, it is clear to me that the asset forfeiture fund was not handled properly during Michael Newsome’s tenure as chief of police and ultimately he bears responsibility to the citizens of North Chicago for the manner in which the fund was handled.”
“Drug asset forfeiture funds are an essential resource in our day-to-day battle to keep our community safe. So, any efforts to misappropriate or steal these funds should be considered an offense against every resident of our community,” said Jackson.
Newsome was appointed police chief in 2005 after 14 years in the department.
Frank Abderholden and Beth Kramer contributed to this report