Metro-East News

Madison County officials lay traps, set up hidden cameras after cryptic break-ins

No trespassing sign was taped to the door of Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office after a reported break-in at the Madison County Administration Building.
No trespassing sign was taped to the door of Madison County State’s Attorney’s Office after a reported break-in at the Madison County Administration Building.

A series of office break-ins at the Madison County Administration Building has the state’s attorney setting traps and posting “no trespassing” notices, the county clerk installing surveillance cameras and sealing the ballot room, and three police agencies investigating.

It all started when a Madco Credit Union employee suspected that someone entered the office after hours and got into a file cabinet containing loan applications. The credit union office is located on the ground floor of the administration building at 157 N. Main St.

County Clerk Debbie Ming Mendoza, who is on the credit union’s board of directors, said a credit union employee came to her on Dec. 15 and told her that someone had been in the office after hours. A file cabinet in the credit union containing loan applications was breached, Mendoza said. The file cabinet didn’t have a lock, so the employee sealed it with scotch tape. When the employee came to work, the seal was broken, Mendoza said.

“I told her to report it to the sheriff’s department,” Mendoza said.

The sheriff’s department took the report, labeled it suspicious activity and passed it to the Edwardsville Police Department.

Jay Keeven, a former Illinois State Police commander and current Edwardsville police chief, said Tuesday he didn’t expect charges to be issued in the case, but that the investigation was two or three weeks from being completed. An Illinois State Police crime scene technician dusted the file cabinets for prints, Keeven said, but that came up empty.

“So far as we can tell right now, there doesn’t seem to be a criminal offense,” Keeven said.

It is my duty to protect the integrity of those records and keep track of who comes and goes. ... I had to beef up security, so I could sleep at night.

Madison County Clerk Debbie Ming Mendoza

The motive for the break-in was unclear, Keeven said. Nothing from the credit union appeared to be taken, but Keeven acknowledged there could have been sensitive information in the loan application files, such as Social Security numbers, credit scores and other personal information.

The break-in came 10 days after newly elected Republican County Board Chairman Kurt Prenzler’s staffers received universal keys to the buildings. Master keys are also held by Kurt Geshwend, head of facilities management; Rob Dorman, information technology director; and cleaning personnel. Dorman; Steve Adler, deputy director of administrative services; and Doug Hulme, county administrator, said they were interviewed by police.

“There were two of them. They came in, and they were wearing jackets with Major Case Squad on them,” Hulme said. “They wanted us to know that they were going to be talking to people in the building.”

Both Adler and Hulme said they told police they didn’t know anything about the break-ins.

Prenzler said he didn’t know anything about the break-ins. “This is the first I am hearing of it,” he said.

Hulme first said he didn’t tell Prenzler about the break-ins but later said he may have mentioned it and Prenzler forgot.

As news of the break-ins spread in the administration building, State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons set a trap to see whether someone was coming into his office. He declined to say what he did, but he told reporters that he was sure someone entered his personal office. He also said he knew it was not the cleaning crew. He declined to elaborate.

Gibbons posted “no trespassing” notices on the outside of his general office, where sensitive police reports, case files, sealed juvenile cases and evidence, including drugs and guns, are kept. He also purchased with his own funds a security camera.

“If I capture someone on that camera, I will be sure to let you know,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons, a Democrat, discussed the security breach with Sheriff John Lakin, a fellow Democrat. Gibbons also was interviewed by an Edwardsville police officer and an Illinois State Police agent.

Talk of the break-ins got Ming Mendoza thinking about her own office, where sensitive vital records and voting information are kept. Although she doesn’t think her office was accessed, Ming Mendoza said she can’t be sure.

She put a ballot box seal on the door of the room that holds the ballots, which must be kept for two years. She also installed a surveillance system for the office.

“It is my duty to protect the integrity of those records and keep track of who comes and goes. ... I had to beef up security, so I could sleep at night,” she said.

Beth Hundsdorfer: 618-239-2570, @bhundsdorfer

George Pawlaczyk: 618-239-2625, @gapawlaczyk

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