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posted: 7/1/2010 12:01 AM

Big Brother accused of molesting boy had criminal past

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  • Leonard Puccini

      Leonard Puccini

 
 

A McHenry County man accused of molesting a boy he had met and briefly mentored through Big Brothers Big Sisters had a criminal record that includes allegations he gave alcohol to a pair of high school freshmen and tried to turn them against their parents, according to court records.

Despite those claims, and a 1988 felony conviction, Leonard W. Puccini passed through what a Big Brothers Big Sisters official called a "rigorous" screening process last year and eventually was matched with the 12-year-old boy he now stands accused of abusing.

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Puccini, 50, of the 9000 block of Shadow Lane in Bull Valley, faces a charge of aggravated criminal sexual abuse stemming from claims he inappropriately touched the boy July 21, 2009, at his residence.

McHenry County court record show it is not the first time Puccini has been accused of criminal behavior involving minors. In 1988, authorities charged Puccini with two counts of felony eavesdropping and two counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor stemming from his relationship with a pair of 14-year-old boys from McHenry.

According to police reports, the boys told investigators they spent New Year's Eve 1987 at Puccini's home, drinking beer and wine coolers and playing drinking games. The boys, reports state, spent the night at the residence, but there was no allegation of sexual misconduct. Puccini, when questioned, denied giving the teens alcohol.

The investigation, reports say, later determined that Puccini secretly recorded a meeting with one of the boy's mothers at a Wheeling restaurant in September 1987. According to the boy's mother, she wanted to speak with Puccini, then 27 years old, to discuss her concerns about his friendship with her 14-year-old boy.

Authorities later charged Puccini with a second count of eavesdropping alleging he taught one of the teens how to wiretap his home phone to overhear his mother's conversations. He also was charged with rigging a cable television box outside his home to receive free service.

Puccini ultimately struck a plea deal in which he admitted guilt to one count of eavesdropping, a Class 4 felony, and was sentenced to two years probation, 100 hours community service and a $500 fine. The remaining charges were dismissed.

Bob Akers, president and CEO of Big Brothers Big Sisters of McHenry County, said on Tuesday that Puccini was with the organization last year from April 23 to May 11, at which time his match with the boy ended.

Before being matched with the boy, Akers said, Puccini passed through a screening process that included criminal background checks, a Department of Children and Family Services check, a home interview and a training program for would-be mentors.

Contacted Wednesday about the 1988 charges, the agency issued a statement saying it is saddened by the reports of a child being harmed and is constantly reviewing its procedures to strengthen its background checks and screening procedures.

"Out of respect for the legal process, we are unable to discuss, speculate or offer further details on any specifics," the statement reads.

Puccini, who is free on $5,000 bond, is scheduled to appear in court July 21 on the Class 2 felony charge.

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