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Country Club fire chief refuses to discuss conviction, gives city ‘general apology’

Charles Smith Markham pleaded guilty late 1990s participating medical insurance fraud scheme.

Charles Smith, of Markham, pleaded guilty in the late 1990s to participating in a medical insurance fraud scheme.

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Updated: November 26, 2012 7:12AM



Roger Agpawa and Charles Smith were partners in crime.

Both pleaded guilty in the late 1990s to participating in a medical insurance fraud scheme.

Agpawa received probation, but Smith was sentenced to four months behind bars.

To this day, Smith is still paying a higher price for his crime than Agpawa.

Smith, 50, was hired as a police officer in south suburban Robbins last year, disclosing his conviction on his application. But the state revoked his state firearm card because of his federal felony. Cook County prosecutors then charged him with illegal gun possession and official misconduct.

In May, Smith was convicted and sentenced to two years’ probation on those charges. He lost his police job in Robbins and a job as an assistant fire chief in south suburban Phoenix, authorities say.

Meanwhile, Agpawa, 54, had worked for years in south suburban Markham in a variety of public-safety positions, including chief fire inspector; deputy fire chief; 911 coordinator, and administrator of the city’s court.

Earlier this month, the Chicago Sun-Times reported that Agpawa was hired in south suburban Country Club Hills as its $98,000-a-year fire chief. On his application, he disclosed a 1984 misdemeanor conviction for a DUI. But he didn’t disclose the federal felony conviction that he shared with Smith.

State law bars firefighters from having a felony, but the law doesn’t apply to fire chiefs because they don’t hold a sworn position, experts say.

Agpawa has repeatedly declined to comment to the Sun-Times on his criminal background, but he did recently send out a Facebook message to address the issue.

“First I think that it is important to give a general apology to my new city of Country Club Hills,” he wrote. “It was never my intent to embarrass the city or the fire department. I have not run from anything in my past and found that the past is my best friend as long as I leave it there.”

Agpawa went on to say that his life story shows others that they can “make it through adversity and find restoration and be a mentor.”

“Finally on this particular note, I never willfully omitted information to my new job and gave brief detail verbally because it was partially sealed,” Agpawa said.

He was referring to an unusual move by the federal court to seal Agpawa’s 1999 plea agreement at his request.

The public can’t view it, but the fact that he pleaded guilty is public, along with the fact that he got a reduced sentence because of the substantial assistance he gave federal investigators.

Country Club Hills Mayor Dwight Welch didn’t return a phone message seeking comment and Smith could not be reached for comment.

The disclosure about Agpawa comes after Country Club Hills’ former police chief, Regina Evans, and her husband, former Country Club Hills Police Inspector General Ronald W. Evans, were indicted in federal court earlier this year on mail fraud and money-laundering charges. They are free, awaiting trial.



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