Former head of Illinois corrections sent to prison for 2 years for taking payoffs

CHICAGO (AP) _ Fighting back tears and apologizing to his teenage daughters, the former head of the Illinois prison system was sentenced to two years in federal prison for taking payoffs from lobbyists.

“What I did was absolutely wrong,” said Donald Snyder, who admitted pocketing $50,000 from lobbyists when he was director of the Illinois Department of Corrections.

He said he hoped his conviction on the charges would not bias employers against his daughters when they grow up and look for jobs. “I’m sorry, girls,” he said, turning to the bench where they were sitting.

Snyder, who pleaded guilty, also volunteered to be a federal witness, secretly recorded corrupt conversations and testified at the trial of one of the lobbyists.

Judge James B. Zagel chastised Snyder. “I didn’t believe much of your testimony and I didn’t believe much of your testimony because of your claimed lack of memory,” Zagel told him.

Snyder admitted that he took $30,000 from Larry Sims, a lobbyist for two vendors. He said he pocketed up to $20,000 from two other lobbyists, former Cook County undersheriff John Robinson and Michael J. Mahoney.

Sims and Robinson have pleaded guilty. Mahoney was acquitted in a bench trial before Zagel.

The case drew attention not only because of Snyder’s position but because Mahoney had lobbied the prison system while executive director of the John Howard Association, a prison reform organization.

Besides sentencing Snyder to two years in prison, Zagel ordered him to forfeit $50,000, the amount of the payoffs he pocketed, and perform 300 hours of community service at a rate of 20 hours a week.

Michael Metnick, Snyder’s lawyer, urged Zagel to consider the good job Snyder did in improving the state’s prison system, reducing the amount of gang violence.

But Assistant U.S. Attorney Joel Levin said that much of Snyder’s tenure as corrections director was marked by “waste, mismanagement, cronyism and abuse of office.”

Zagel said Snyder, who served as Illinois corrections director from 1999 through early 2003, diminished the stature of government officials by setting a terrible example and making people doubt their integrity.

Child molester found guilty of failing to register as sex offender

Former DuPage correctional officer is first person in Illinois to be convicted under Adam Walsh Act

Daniel Rappe, a former correctional officer in the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department who was twice convicted on child molestation charges, had ducked registering as a sex offender for seven years by creating a “tangled web” of false identities, prosecutors say.

Because of a new federal law, however, federal authorities joined the investigation, traced Rappe to a Willowbrook apartment and arrested him in March 2007.

On Tuesday, a federal jury convicted Rappe, making him the first person in Illinois to be convicted under the Adam Walsh Act for failing to register as a sex offender.

“It sends a message to sex offenders that may have previously been able to run and hide under local jurisdictions,” said Assistant U.S. Atty. Rachel Cannon, a prosecutor in the case. “That’s no longer the case.”
Rappe, 47, was convicted in DuPage County of criminal sexual assault in 1986 and aggravated criminal sex abuse in 1989. Victims in both cases were children, Cannon said.

When Rappe was released from prison in 1992, he was required to register as a sex offender with state authorities. But after registering his address in Will County in 1997 and DuPage County in 1999, he notified authorities that he had moved to Wisconsin, said Assistant U.S. Atty. Christopher McFadden, another prosecutor in the case.

Instead, Rappe spent the next seven years flying “under the radar” while remaining in Willowbrook, McFadden said, obtaining driver’s licenses in Indiana, giving false addresses and Social Security numbers to employers and changing his name.

Cannon said Rappe’s experience in law enforcement gave him the knowledge to exploit inconsistencies in the registration laws of various states.

“I think the fact that he had been a sheriff’s officer and had some knowledge of the law, plus the fact he was taking active steps to research the laws and look for loopholes, contributed to his ability to evade authorities for seven years,” Cannon said.

The Adam Walsh Act, named for the son of “America’s Most Wanted” host John Walsh, was signed into law by President Bush in July 2006. Adam Walsh, 6, was abducted from a Florida mall and slain in 1981, a crime that has never been solved.

One result of the act was to standardize the laws for sex-offender registration across different states, preventing offenders from moving to more lenient areas to avoid registration. The act also authorized federal authorities to help local law-enforcement agencies track offenders such as Rappe, McFadden said.

Agents from the U.S. Marshals Service and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement spent a month tracking Rappe in an investigation that Cannon said would have been difficult for local agencies to complete.

After two hours of deliberations, the jury found Rappe guilty of one count of failure to register as a sex offender and three counts of obstruction of justice.

The obstruction charges stemmed from when Rappe phoned his girlfriend from the DuPage County Jail after his March 2007 arrest and told her to erase the hard drives of three computers in their home.

Rappe faces up to 10 years in prison for failing to register, prosecutors said. He is scheduled to be sentenced Sept. 2 by U.S. District Judge Blanche Manning.

Feds seek cash that was allegedly dug up and deposited by Prison guard

East St. Louis — An Illinois prison guard’s attempts to discreetly deposit bundles of once-buried cash led to a 21st-century treasure hunt and the discovery of a drug dealer’s stash of almost $500,000 in cash, coins and jewelry, federal prosecutors say.

Internal Revenue Service agents became suspicious when the guard, Paul D. Steinacher, split $75,000 into multiple deposits that then went into three bank accounts, according to court documents and people with knowledge of the investigation.

When the agents knocked on the door of Steinacher’s home in White Hall, Ill., on Jan. 15, he had a strange greeting for them: “I think I know what this is about,” according to an affidavit filed in court by IRS Special Agent James Dye.

Steinacher told the following story, according to Dye

He met a young woman from Pocahontas, Connie Jean Collins, online in 2006. She then moved into his home in White Hall, about 50 miles north of St. Louis.

One day in March 2006, Collins came home with a brand-new duffel bag full of bundles of dirty, moldy cash that reeked of marijuana. Steinacher counted $144,000 in bundles of $5,000. Collins said she had dug it up near the home of her old boyfriend’s mother.

Collins told Steinacher that her former boyfriend was a drug dealer doing time in the federal prison in Greenville. That boyfriend was later identified by officials as Jack A. Williams, 56, serving nine years on a 2005

marijuana conspiracy conviction.

Collins also said there were 12 other bundles of cash buried at the property.

She warned Steinacher that a bank must make a government report of a cash transaction of $10,000 or more. Steinacher checked with a bank to be sure, then split up the deposits.

The couple eventually used some of the money to buy and fix up another house in White Hall, and lived there until Steinacher caught Collins with another man.

He then signed the house over to her and reported her to the Drug Enforcement Administration, local police and to Williams’ mother, Treva Williams, the court documents say.

Steinacher told IRS agents, who got on his trail through the bank deposits, that the DEA didn’t take his call seriously.

Two days after talking to Steinacher, agents recovered $170,000 in cash buried in Treva Williams’ backyard, and two caches of cash — $31,000 and $65,000 — buried at a neighbor’s property. They also found $10,250 in cash, four gold and diamond rings, a gold bracelet, two gold Rolex watches and a platinum ring, hidden in a secret compartment in Treva Williams’ kitchen, court documents show.

On Jan. 19, the IRS found 118 one-ounce U.S. Eagle gold coins and two gold Krugerrands buried at the neighbor’s.

Federal prosecutors have filed a motion in court at East St. Louis to seize the cash and valuables; a status conference is set for May 16.

Jack Williams, now in federal prison in Marion, Ill., declined a reporter’s interview request. His attorney, Bill Stiehl Jr., said, “We’ve reached an agreement with regard to their forfeiture claim, and we anticipate a settlement agreement being entered shortly.”

Treva Williams said her son would not be serving any additional time for not disclosing the stash when he pleaded guilty in 2005. She declined to comment about the recovered money and valuables, saying, “I’m his mother and I’ve been through a lot with this, and I don’t want anything else put in the paper about this.”

She added that her son just wanted to move on, and said, “He certainly doesn’t have anything left.”

Assistant U.S. Attorney Ranley Killian said he could not comment while the case is ongoing.

Reached by telephone, Steinacher first said, “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” before hanging up. After a return call and a reporter’s question about Special Agent Dye’s affidavit, Steinacher said, “Don’t call me no more.”

Steinacher, 49, works as a guard at a work camp in Greene County, Illinois Department of Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp said last week.

Collins and Treva Williams’ neighbor could not be reached for comment.

Court records show no charges against anyone in connection with the uncovered stash.

Jack Williams was involved with Edward Trober of Collinsville, who ran a Metro East marijuana smuggling operation for a decade. Trober was sentenced in 2005 to 10 years in prison; he and his associates were ordered to forfeit more than $20 million in proceeds linked to the gang.

Ex-Kane County corrections chief pleads guilty to DUI

The former chief corrections officer of Kane County, who was fired from his job after he was accused of driving under the influence last summer, pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge Friday.

Todd Exline, 47, was fined $1,530 and received a 1-year sentence of court supervision from Kane County Judge Allen Anderson. Exline also must participate in counseling and attend a victim-impact panel.

State Appellate Prosecutor Charles Colburn called the sentence typical for a first-time offender who does not have a criminal record. The Kane County Sheriff’s Merit Commission fired Exline last month.

“After he lost his job with the sheriff’s department, he called and said he wanted to put it behind him,” said David Camic, who represented Exline.


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Helicopter landing at Pontiac prison draws ire, not fire

SPRINGFIELD — Passengers in a helicopter that landed in a parking lot at one of Illinois’ toughest prisons “are lucky to be alive,” say officials representing the state’s prison guards.

The helicopter, filled with top prison brass, was making a visit to the Pontiac Correctional Center on March 20 when it touched down in an area where guards park their cars.

The problem, says the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, is no one told rank-and-file prison guards, who were alarmed by the presence of an unmarked helicopter in close proximity to the maximum-security facility.

AFSCME says one correctional officer in a guard tower drew his weapon, fearing an inmate on outside work detail who was walking toward the helicopter might be involved in an escape attempt.

No shots were fired, but the incident resulted in the union issuing a written complaint to Illinois Department of Corrections Director Roger Walker.

“No notice of approval of any aircraft to breach the perimeter had been shared with any operations staff at Pontiac,” wrote AFSCME Regional Director Buddy Maupin.

Maupin said correctional officers are authorized to shoot to kill in order to prevent an aircraft from assisting in an escape attempt.

“The tower officer would have been fully within his authority to open fire on the incoming unauthorized aircraft,” Maupin noted in his letter.

Department of Corrections spokesman Derek Schnapp said the helicopter was making a routine visit to the prison and it had authorization to land in the parking lot.

“The warden’s office was aware of it,” Schnapp said.

Schnapp would not address whether the warden’s office notified guards on duty.

“I’m not going to get into it as far as the logistics are on it,” Schnapp said.

In addition to stopping in Pontiac, the Springfield-based contingent of top prison officials also flew to prisons in Robinson and Ina that day. Schnapp said the fly-around was part of normal, periodic visits to prisons by top administrators.

No further incidents were reported at those prisons