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Former Lyons police officer sentenced to 5 years for extortion scheme

Published: Wednesday, Aug. 20, 2014 6:14 p.m. CDT • Updated: Friday, Aug. 22, 2014 12:42 a.m. CDT

A former Lyons police officer was sentenced to five years in federal prison Aug. 4 after pleading guilty to extorting $48,000 from targets of investigations he was conducting in 2013, according to a news release from the FBI.

Jimmy J. Rodgers, 44, of Chicago, was charged with robbing and extorting targets of his investigations into the sale of contraband and counterfeit cigarettes in September 2013 as part of an assignment to a U.S. Food and Drug Administration task force.

Rodgers pleaded guilty in May in federal court and agreed to pay a fine of $48,980. He will begin serving his sentence Nov. 7.

Rodgers was a 14-year veteran of the Lyons Police Department. He was placed on leave without pay in December 2013, according to Lyons Village Manager Thomas Sheehan, in light of the FBI's investigation. He was formally charged by the village's Board of Police and Fire Commissioners on Jan. 22 and would have been suspended without pay pending charges Feb. 12, Sheehan said, but Rodgers resigned from the department Feb. 11.

"The temptation for police officers to extort illegal operations is great," said U.S. District Judge Thomas M. Durkin when imposing Rodger's sentence. "People need to know they will go to jail for this conduct. The sentence here should serve as a reminder that the penalty for shaking people down is not a slap on the wrist."

Prosecutors said Rodgers worked with confidential informants to set up stings on untaxed cigarette deals in and around Chicago. Rodgers would pay informants off and keep the cash and cigarettes after he and other officers detained the dealers. Dealers were threatened into keeping the thefts quiet, according to information released as part of Rodger's plea deal.

Rodgers was accused of recruiting a cooperating FBI source to sell untaxed cigarettes to potential targets of his sting operations.

According a criminal complaint released in September 2013, Rodgers would pay the source a fee for each transaction the source conducted. The complaint detailed two transactions between the source and targets, for which the source was provided a village of Lyons check to pay for his services.

Rodgers was also accused of later paying the source with proceeds from the extorted funds he received during the transactions.

According to the FBI, the source agreed to record conversations and meetings with Rodgers in connection with another contraband cigarette transaction with a potential target. On July 30, the source received $11,280 from the target in exchange for 300 cartons of cigarettes and was told by Rodgers to keep $3,280 of that amount.

The source was also given 30 cartons of cigarettes to pass to another source, who helped arrange the transaction with the target.

According to the FBI, Rodgers was recorded acknowledging that he was not supposed to pay the source from the proceeds of the transactions and told the source to say all payments were given via check from the police department.

An FBI agent reviewed the report of the July 30 transaction filed by Rodgers and noted the report did not mention the seizure of cash from the target. The Lyons Police Department also had no record of Rodgers turning in $8,000 from the transaction.

The Lyons Police Department, led by former Police Chief Harley Schinker, aided the FBI with the investigation.

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