The widow of an Illinois police lieutenant who tried to portray his suicide as murder was indicted Wednesday on six counts accusing her of participating in her husband’s stealing of charitable funds, authorities said.
Melodie Gliniewicz, 51, is the wife of Fox Lake Police Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, who killed himself last year. Officials said her husband staged his suicide to appear he was killed in the line of duty while pursuing three suspects. The case prompted a massive manhunt for weeks until authorities unraveled the ruse.
Melodie Gliniewicz was charged with money laundering and paying personal expenses with funds from the Fox Lake Police Explorer Post that was headed by her late husband since 1987, authorities said.
She held “a fiduciary role as an adult adviser” with the group, which encouraged youngsters to explore careers in law enforcement and the military.
The misappropriated funds were used for personal expenses such as a trip to Hawaii and charges at Starbucks, Dunkin Donuts, and Fox Lake Theatre. They also included over 400 restaurant bills, authorities said.
Melodie Gliniewicz’s attorneys asserted her innocence Wednesday and said she is a victim of her late husband’s secrecy.
“Melodie has suffered greatly over the past few months and continues to move her family forward after the emotionally traumatizing events of September 1, 2015,” when her husband killed himself, said the law firm Kelleher & Buckley.
“Considering Melodie’s cooperation with law enforcement, she is devastated by the decision to bring charges against her. Melodie is a victim of her husband’s secret actions and looks forward to her day in court to show the world her innocence,” the statement said.
Lake County Sheriff Mark Curran summarized how the shooting of Lt. Gliniewicz came to national attention. He was deemed a hero killed in the line of duty, until authorities discovered he had been worrying about being thrown in jail for misuse of Explorer Post funds.
His death was a meticulously crafted suicide designed to look like suspects killed him, investigators concluded. There never were any suspects involved.
“Fox Lake, all of Lake County, and quite frankly the entire country have been through a mix of emotions throughout the Gliniewicz investigations. It is my hope the community can continue healing and rebuilding,” the sheriff said.
A Lake County, Illinois, grand jury indicted Melodie Gliniewicz on several classes of offenses, all of them felonies: three Class 2 counts of disbursing charitable funds without authority and for personal benefit, one Class 3 count of disbursing charitable funds without authority and for personal benefit, one Class 2 count of money laundering, and one Class 3 count of money laundering.
“The investigation revealed money was withdrawn from the police explorer account over the course of several years. Detectives determined this money was used to finance a number of personal expenses and personal finances,” Lake County Undersheriff Ray Rose said in a statement.
The Chicago suburb of Fox Lake wasn’t directly involved in the investigation of alleged embezzlement, but it did assist investigators, officials said.
“The Village of Fox Lake has learned of today’s indictment of Melodie Gliniewicz. The allegation that she participated in an embezzlement scheme that victimized a youth organization, its members and, in effect, the entire Fox Lake community, is extremely disappointing,” a statement by the village said.
Investigators examined more than 10,000 pages of documents and subpoenaed banks and business records since the September death of Gliniewicz, who was an officer with Fox Lake police for 30 years.
“This entire matter has been a sad and tragic saga for the Village of Fox Lake. My hope is that we will be able to close this unfortunate chapter and move forward with ensuring a professional and transparent police department dedicated to the citizens of Fox Lake,” Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Nerheim said.
Melodie Gliniewicz has four sons by her late husband, and she had been employed with her grandmother, who owns a pest control services firm in Antioch, Illinois, according to what son Donald “D.J.” Gliniewicz told the Daily Herald last year.
Shortly before Joe Gliniewicz, 52, died, he radioed police dispatchers that he was chasing three male suspects — two white and one black — at an abandoned cement factory.
Responding officers found him dead, with gunshot wounds, close to marshlands.
Authorities concluded his shooting was self-inflicted after federal investigators in Quantico, Virginia, recovered text messages that Gliniewicz had deleted from his cell phone. In all, 6,500 pages of texts were reclaimed, authorities said.
Those text messages indicated an alleged embezzlement scheme in which Gliniewicz absconded with charitable funds from the Explorer Post, where he introduced hundreds of youngsters to potential careers in policing and the military.
Joe Gliniewicz also served in the Army for four years and the Army Reserves for 27 years. He had been working for the Fox Lake Police Department since 1985. Locals nicknamed him “G.I. Joe.”
The text messages also provided insight into how Gliniewicz became panic stricken when a new village administrator demanded an accounting of the Explorer Post’s finances and property.
For example, in June 2015, Gliniewicz sent a text to “Individual #1” saying he used “the exploder (sic) account” for a $624.70 flight. CNN later learned that “Individual #1” was his wife.
Last year, Melodie Gliniewicz’s attorneys issued a news release stating that Gliniewicz had been depositing his own money into the Explorer Post bank account. “Melodie respectfully requests that the community, law enforcement, pension board and press refrain from rushing to, or misplacing, judgment,” the release said.
Also, Joe Gliniewicz messaged an “Individual #2” last year. CNN later learned that individual is Donald Gliniewicz, who also joined the Army. The son has not responded to a request for comment.
In June 2015, one text to his son pointed to unidentified expenses of $1,600 and $777.
Joe Gliniewicz: “You are borrowing from that ‘other’ account, when you get back youll have to start dumping money into that account or you will be visiting me in JAIL!! The 1600 and the 777 all came from there. …”
In the text messages, Joe Gliniewicz became increasingly desperate to his son. At the same time, he was thinking of applying to become a police chief in a nearby community.
Gliniewicz: “I’m sticking my neck out there with loaning you over $2377.00 to fix your truck specifically and only to help accommodate your summer leave, trip to OK.”
He continued to his son: “So if called on the carpet i can say, ‘we give our explorers and advisors loans from time to time if it is needed, and this is proof it is being pa(i)d back'(.) you get (where) I’m (coming) from? This village administrater (sic) hates me and the explorer program. This situation right here would give her the means to CRUCIFY ME (if) it were discovered. Compound this with “if” i was selected for chief of antioch (Illinois), i would be leaving here and would have to turn this account over to someone else. …”
In recent months, authorities have said they have been looking at two people besides Joe Gliniewicz in connection with the use of funds from the Explorer Post. They haven’t identified the third person.