An Algonquin attorney was arrested Thursday in a murder-for-hire scheme in which the intended target was the ex-husband of his girlfriend whose divorce he had handled, authorities said Friday.
Jason W. Smiekel, 29, was charged with using a cellphone in a murder-for-hire plot, a charge that carries a maximum penalty of 10 years, Assistant U.S. Attorney John G. McKenzie said. "(The charge) is the federal equivalent of murder for hire," McKenzie said. The criminal complaint was filed Friday morning in federal court in Rockford.
According to the affidavit for complaint, Smiekel was arrested after 4:15 p.m. in the parking lot of a restaurant on Randall Road in Elgin after he gave $7,000 in cash to an undercover agent from the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The ATF agent posed as a hitman.
The murder was scheduled to take place Thursday at 5:30 p.m., but the intended victim was never in harm's way, authorities said in a news release.
On July 27, Smiekel approached a confidential ATF source whom he had known for four or five years and indicated that he wanted to have his girlfriend's ex-husband killed, the affidavit states.
Smiekel recently represented the woman in her divorce case, said Thomas Ahern, public information officer for the ATF Chicago field division.
"The ex-husband had information about (Smiekel) that could be damaging in a proceeding against him," Ahern said. Smiekel said the information would "destroy" him and could lead to a criminal indictment, the affidavit states.
Smiekel said he already had paid $8,000 to two other individuals to commit the murder, with the promise of $7,000 more when the murder was carried out, Ahern said. Smiekel originally wanted to have the man killed before a July 29 court date, the affidavit states.
"The two other individuals took off with the $8,000, Ahern said, adding that "will be followed up on."
On July 31, Smiekel gave the confidential informant a piece of paper with the intended victim's name, address in McHenry County and place of employment, the affidavit states. The intended victim is listed as a defendant in a family court matter in McHenry County, according to the affidavit.
The confidential informant put Smiekel in touch with an undercover ATF agent, whom Smiekel first met Aug. 1 at the Elgin restaurant, the affidavit states. The two discussed a $20,000 price tag for the murder. The next day, the pair met again and Smiekel gave the ATF agent an envelope with a photograph of the intended victim and $1,500 as a down payment, Ahern said.
In later conversations, Smiekel told the undercover ATF agent where the man works and works out, and discussed further when and how the murder would take place, Ahern said.
The ATF agent told Smiekel he would make the murder look like it stemmed from a robbery, and asked Smiekel if he wanted to drive by the scene of the murder to confirm the victim had died, but Smiekel declined, the affidavit states.
Late Thursday afternoon Smiekel gave the ATF agent the $7,000 in cash. After discussing the rest of the payment, the agent gave the signal to arrest Smiekel, the affidavit states.
"It was assumed by Smiekel that (the murder) was going to take place shortly thereafter," Ahern said.
A woman who answered the phone at the law firm Mohr, Hill & Smiekel in Algonquin confirmed that Smiekel was a partner at the firm. The firm had no comment, the woman said.
Smiekel doesn't have any arrests in McHenry County and only has a 1998 traffic ticket on his record in Kane County, according to court records.
According to a search on the website for the Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois, Smiekel doesn't have any public record of discipline or pending proceedings.
Smiekel is being held without bond until a preliminary examination and bond hearing on Wednesday, Aug. 10.