A former Vernon Hills deputy police chief was sentenced to probation and public service after pleading guilty Tuesday to writing false tickets in order to steal grant money.
In March, a Lake County grand jury indicted Patrick Zimmerman, 51, on two felony counts of official misconduct and two misdemeanor theft counts.
The grand jury alleged that Zimmerman, who was the Vernon Hills deputy police chief, 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.
On Tuesday, the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office reached a plea deal with Zimmerman.
Zimmerman pleaded guilty to one count of misdemeanor theft and his other charges, including felony charges, were dismissed.
Zimmerman’s plea deal specified he would be required to pay $4,365.29 in restitution to Vernon Hills, complete 50 public service hours and serve 18 months of non-reporting probation.
“We feel that this resolution takes into account former Deputy Chief Zimmerman’s years of service to our community, but also holds him accountable for violating the public trust,” Lake County State’s Attorney Eric Rinehart said.
“The taxpayers will be reimbursed under this plea agreement, and former officer Zimmerman will have a criminal conviction on his record,” Rinehart said.
Rinehart added that Zimmerman is also being de-certified as a police officer under new police reforms that recently went into effect.
He will no longer be able to serve as a police officer in the State of Illinois because of the plea, Rinehart said.
Prosecutors said that Zimmerman will be placed on the office’s “Brady List.” The placement on the list was not part of the negotiation.
The list is a compilation of officers and former officers who have engaged in misconduct. This list is disclosed to defense attorneys in cases in which those officers or former officers are involved.
Vernon Hills Chief of Police Patrick Kreis said his department had worked to uncover the fraud and to cooperate with the Lake County State’s Attorney’s Office, IDOT and village officials.
Kreis said the police department has audited related activities and implemented improvements in the administration of the STEP program. No other misconduct by other employees was found.