Cop accused of stealing $20k from elderly man with dementia
BY TINA SFONDELES Staff Reporter December 27, 2013 7:16PM
Elmwood Park Elmwood Park Police Sgt. John Wasilenko directs cars during a roadside safety check in November 2012. Wasilenko was arrested last week and charged with defrauding an 84-year-old man of $20,000 | File
Updated: January 29, 2014 6:11AM
An Elmwood Park police sergeant has been relieved of his police duties amid allegations he forged a $20,000 check from an elderly man with dementia.
Although no criminal charges have been filed, Sgt. John Wasilenko has been put on administrative leave, pending the investigation after being named in a citation to discover assets filed Dec. 20 by Cook County Public Guardian Robert F. Harris.
During the investigation, the 85-year-old victim admitted he gave about $2,000 in cash to Wasilenko, but couldn’t remember when. He said Wasilenko “protected” him from “a lot of bad guys and politicians in Elmwood Park.” He said he was giving Wasilenko money for a trip and was supposed to give him $6,000 over the next couple years, the citation said.
In an independent medical evaluation conducted in March, a doctor noted the man suffered from dementia with very significant cognitive deficits and was “totally incapable of making person and financial decisions.”
Wasilenko met the man when he came into the police station on Oct. 19, 2012 to report that money was missing from his apartment. The man, who lived alone, additionally told the sergeant that he kept $70,000 at his residence, the citation said.
Less than two months later, an employee at the First National Bank of Brookfield called police, concerned that the elderly man was the victim of financial exploitation and forgery.
During the same time, Wasilenko allegedly cashed a $20,000 check at a TCF National Bank branch where he had an account.
When the victim came to the bank several days later, the bank employee asked him whether he wrote the check. He told her he did not write it, and that the signature wasn’t his: “He stated that he did not know John Wasilenko,” the citation said.
Wasilenko allegedly called the bank employee on Dec. 19, 2012, telling her he was a “friend” and “sort of care giver” for the man, and questioned why his bank account was frozen. He told the woman he had a personal relationship with the man, and often did favors for him, like driving him around to various appointments, the citation said.
When the bank employee told Wasilenko the man had alleged the check was forgery, Wasilenko was heard yelling at the elderly victim saying, “Why did you tell them it was not your signature on the check?” the citation alleged.
Wasilenko admitted his name was on the $20,000 check and that the man gave him the money as a gift, officials said.. When questioned further about whether he thought taking a check from an elderly citizen might be misconstrued, “Sgt. Wasilenko responded by stating he did not think anything was wrong with taking the money,” since he ran errands for him, according to the citation.
In a statement issued Friday, Elmwood Park Police Chief Frank Fagiano said the police department is not aware of any other alleged “exploitative activity” connected to Wasilenko. Fagiano said Wasilenko has been “closely watched” since the department learned of the investigation.
“Now that the Citation to Discover Assets has been made public, we believe it is in the best interest of the Village to relieve Wasilenko of further duty while the investigation is finalized,” Fagiano said.
Harris said Wasilenko took advantage of his position as a police officer.
“I believe that an officer has to be held to a standard, certainly, and in a case like this, because he was investigating an alleged crime, he has to be held to a higher standard,” Harris said. “You just don’t take a $20,000 check from somebody, from an older man, that you make out to yourself.”
Wasilenko joined Elmwood Park Police Department in 2004 and was promoted to sergeant in 2008. He will receive his pay while on administrative leave.
Contributing: David Pollard