Crooked sheriff’s officer says he was trying to help son in shakedown
By KIM JANSSEN Federal Courts Reporter firstname.lastname@example.org July 8, 2013 4:48PM
Updated: August 10, 2013 6:27AM
Crooked Cook County Sheriff’s officer Larry Draus Sr. says he was trying to help his son when he used his police badge to shake down a crew of contraband cigarette traffickers.
Now he may end up in a prison cell alongside him, instead.
Two months after his son, Larry Draus Jr., pleaded guilty to his role in the protection racket, Draus Sr. also pleaded guilty in federal court Monday to extortion — a crime that could see him locked up for between two and four years.
The 35-year veteran officer admitted he took $10,000 cash and 30 cartons of cigarettes from an informant who was working with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives early last year.
In return, Draus Sr. promised to protect the informants’ warehouse of illegal, untaxed cigarettes from a police bust.
Appearing before Judge John Tharp on Monday afternoon, a contrite Draus Sr. said “I assisted my son — he was involved in an illegal cigarette operation . . . as a police officer, I agreed to help him.”
According to court documents, Draus Sr. met the informant in a restaurant in January last year, after Draus Jr. had already paid about $217,000 for 170 cases of contraband cigarettes and accepted about $60,000 in protection money.
As Draus Sr. accepted the $10,000 under-the-table cash payoff, he was secretly recorded saying, “I am doing this for my son. I don’t care about anything. It’s for him. I want him to do good,” according to court documents.
He later used his police powers to “scare off” a rival the informant had complained about, and to run a background check on a man at the informant’s request.
He was relieved of his duties at the time of his arrest and resigned his position in April. The Sheriff’s police had been cooperating with the federal investigation since mid-summer 2011, sheriff’s spokesman Frank Bilecki said last year.
Though he potentially faces up to 20 years behind bars when he is sentenced in October, the likely sentencing guidelines for his crime suggest a prison term of up to 41 months, prosecutors say.
Draus Jr. has also yet to be sentenced.