Group offers $10,000 reward for drug-related tips about elected officials

News-DemocratJune 28, 2013 

An anti-drug group is offering $10,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of an elected official on heroin-related charges.

The Illinois State Crime Commission, a nonprofit organization based near Chicago, is offering the reward during the month of July. While the reward is offered statewide, it was spurred by drug-related charges against former St. Clair County Circuit Judge Mike Cook and law enforcement officers throughout the state, according to the commission's Executive Director Jerry Elsner.

Elsner said the commission has commitments for more than $1 million and $10,000 in cash will be given per convicted person. For example, the conviction of two elected officials would net a reward of $20,000 to the tipster.

"If we are going to declare a war on drugs, let's declare a war on drugs," Elsner said. "This is not a Democratic or Republican issue."

Elected officials near Chicago have criticized the reward as hurting the overall reputation of politicians, Elsner said.

"Politicians say I'm discrediting politicians. Good God, how do you discredit a politician from Illinois?" Elsner said, referring to previous arrests of prominent politicians in the state.

Cook, 43, has resigned his judgeship and faces federal heroin related charges. He is receiving care at a drug treatment center in Minnesota. Fellow St. Clair County Circuit Judge Joe Christ died of a cocaine overdose while at a hunting cabin with Cook in March.

A former St. Clair County Probation Officer James Fogarty faces charges for allegedly providing cocaine to the judges. Former East St. Louis Detective Orlando Ward faces federal drug conspiracy charges for allegedly providing information, police protection and other help to dealers distributing cocaine.

The focus on heroin-related charges stems from the death number of deaths attributed to the drug, Elsner said. For example, the News-Democrat found 94 people in St. Clair County died from using the drug in 2011.

"Somebody is protecting these people," Elsner said. "A lot of people are dying and not a lot of people are going to prison."

The commission has asked state officials to put together a drug task force targeting the trafficking of heroin, Elsner said, but so far the only response is a promise to study whether there is a problem.

A more immediate solution is needed to fight the "heroin epidemic," Elsner said. "The drug cartels are not scared of committees," he added.

The commission does not identify those who receive the reward, Elsner said, and tips can be given directly to local police or prosecutors.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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