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Former North Chicago police chief charged with stealing government property

Michael Newsome

Michael Newsome

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Updated: December 1, 2012 4:42PM

North Chicago’s former top cop was charged Tuesday with stealing $140,000 from a fund where the city collected cash seized in drug arrests and allegedly using the money for home repairs, private school tuition for his kids and even a new car, officials said.

Michael G. Newsome, 51, is charged with two counts of theft — the first a Class X felony that could net him as many as 30 years in prison — along with charges of official misconduct and misapplication of funds, according to Lake County State’s Attorney Michael Waller and North Chicago Mayor Leon Rockingham.

Steve Scheller, chief of the Lake County State’s Attorney’s criminal division, said the money appears to have been stolen between April 2011 and March. Rockingham put Newsome on administrative leave in January pending an investigation into the use of force by officers in his department and Newsome retired in February.

Scheller said Newsome still might have had access to the fund after he left the police department.

Newsome surrendered Tuesday to the Lake County Sheriff after prosecutors filed the charges, officials said. His bail was initially set at $100,000 but it was lowered to $25,000 after a hearing, according to the Lake County clerk’s office.

“If the former chief is found guilty of these charges, it represents an enormous betrayal of the trust we placed in him to keep our community safe and to manage already scarce funds responsibly and legally,” Rockingham said.

Newsome’s attorney could not be reached for comment despite multiple attempts.

Rockingham said he told new North Chicago Police Chief James Jackson to perform a thorough review of the internal policies at the department earlier this year. That’s when he said Jackson came upon questionable withdrawals from the account and contacted the state’s attorney’s office.

Scheller said the investigation that followed found Newsome took $140,000 in cash out of the fund over roughly a year, using it for tuition to send his kids to private school, do repairs on his home in North Chicago and to buy a new car.

“Today’s charges are the result of a nine-month investigation,” Waller said. “The city of North Chicago was our partner in this investigation and its assistance throughout has proven invaluable.”

Rockingham said he wants his city attorney to figure out if the stolen money can be returned to North Chicago.

“I am deeply disappointed that the man who headed the North Chicago Police Department for nearly seven years now stands accused of having misappropriated money from this fund,” Rockingham said. “While I understand that Mr. Newsome is presumed innocent of the charges against him, it is clear to me that the asset forfeiture fund was not handled properly during Michael Newsome’s tenure as chief of police and ultimately he bears responsibility to the citizens of North Chicago for the manner in which the fund was handled.”

Rockingham put Newsome on administrative leave Jan. 3 amid a barrage of allegations of brutality at the hands of the North Chicago Police Department. The family of Darrin “Dagwood” Hanna was among those demanding his removal.

Hanna died Nov. 13, a week after his arrest on a domestic battery charge. His family claimed he was beaten to death. A forensic autopsy determined Hanna died as a result of multiple chronic health conditions, plus trauma and restraint during his arrest. He was Tasered multiple times.

Jackson, a former assistant superintendent with the Chicago Police Department, was named interim chief. The city gave him the job on a permanent basis earlier this month.

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