A former Vernon Hills deputy police chief has been indicted on charges that he wrote false tickets in order to steal grant money, prosecutors announced.
A Lake County Grand Jury indicted former Vernon Hills Deputy Chief of Police Patrick Zimmerman on two felony counts of official misconduct and two misdemeanor theft counts.
The grand jury alleged that Zimmerman falsified records related to the Sustained Traffic Enforcement Program (STEP) administered by the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT).
The STEP program disperses grant funds to local police departments who use the money to compensate officers for additional time spent on traffic enforcement. The STEP program is widely used throughout Illinois and Lake County.
Zimmerman resigned from the Vernon Hills Police Department in September after the department identified discrepancies in his grant documentation, prosecutors said.
An internal investigation revealed that Zimmerman had been paid over $4,000 based on false traffic citations he had written, prosecutors said.
While the allegedly falsified records triggered payment of grant funds by the Village of Vernon Hills, the tickets were never submitted for processing to the village, the courts, or the Secretary of State, and no motorists were affected.
“We must hold our police officers to the highest standards. While we acknowledge Zimmerman’s 26 years as a police officer, our duty to the law demands that we bring these charges and inform the public about the misuse of taxpayer funds,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said.
Rinehart said his office is in the process of conducting an internal audit of the criminal cases that Zimmerman personally handled.
Vernon Hills Chief of Police Patrick Kreis said that his department had worked to uncover the fraud and to cooperate with the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, IDOT, and village officials.
“Although we were extremely disappointed to learn of Zimmerman’s alleged conduct, other members of our department deserve credit for identifying the initial discrepancies and bringing it to light,” Chief Kreis said.
“This department is committed to holding itself accountable to the public trust it has been granted,” Kreis said.
Kreis added that the police department has audited related activities and implemented improvements in the administration of the STEP program.
“I would like to extend my appreciation to Chief Kreis and his staff for their hard work in a difficult case. Our attorneys and investigators have been meeting with witnesses since I took office, and we are satisfied that our joint efforts with the Vernon Hills Police Department have uncovered the extent of the fraud,” Rinehart said.
“This case is just one, of many, that had yet to be resolved under the prior administration. We are committed to finding and ending public corruption,” Rinehart added.
Zimmerman will remain free on a stayed $50,000 bench warrant until his arraignment, which is scheduled for April 5 before Lake County Circuit Judge Mark Levitt.