Sara Hudak thought her family was under attack Jan. 16 when — while on the phone with her father — she overheard men yelling and her children screaming, just before the line went dead.
“I thought someone Matt had arrested was coming to kill our family,” said Hudak, who was on her way home from a doctor's appointment while her father watched her toddlers.
Instead, it was her husband, Matthew Hudak, who would soon be under arrest as one of three former Schaumburg undercover officers charged last month in DuPage County with drug possession and conspiracy.
In an interview Tuesday at the Schaumburg office of her husband's attorney, Sara Hudak described her shock and terror as law enforcement officers burst into her home in a search for evidence. She said she is speaking out to support her husband, who was at the interview along with their young son and daughter but did not comment on the advice of attorney Thomas Glasgow.
Insisting on her husband's innocence, she said, “what shocked me was the fact that (authorities) believed some informant (who was) trying to set him up.”
“The picture the prosecutor is painting is not my husband,” she said. “It makes me sick to listen to what they are alleging and not be able to say anything in his defense.”
Sara Hudak described being handcuffed for several hours during the six- or seven-hour search of her house and said she was “penniless,” her family's assets frozen by authorities, in the days after her husband's arrest.
DuPage County prosecutors declined to comment on her description of events.
After the call from her father was disconnected, Sara Hudak said, she tried repeatedly to call both her husband and her father. When a law enforcement officer finally picked up the phone at her house, he told her to come home immediately and arrange for someone to care for her children or they would be placed with the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, she said.
“I had no clue what was going on. They wouldn't tell me,” said Sara Hudak, who says officers did not allow her to speak to anyone, including her children, during the search of her home. “It was an invasion,” she said, comparing the experience to something out of a Hollywood film.
In fact, DuPage County prosecutors' description of the case is equally dramatic.
They say Matthew Hudak, 29, and fellow Schaumburg officers John Cichy, 30, and Terrance O'Brien, 46, skimmed drugs from police seizures and used a former informant to sell the product.
On Monday, the trio pleaded not guilty to charges including unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, armed violence, calculated criminal drug conspiracy and official misconduct.
The charges resulted from an investigation authorities began last month after police found about 9 ounces of cocaine inside a Carol Stream storage shed. That discovery led to an informant who told police he had been dealing drugs with three Schaumburg cops who had arrested him in the past, prosecutors said.
Also charged in connection with the case was Nicole Brehm, 44, of Hoffman Estates. Authorities say her house served as a “stash house” for the drugs.
Schaumburg officials confirmed last week that the former officers, members of the department's Special Investigations Bureau, had resigned. As members of that unit Hudak, Cichy and O'Brien took part in undercover operations involving drugs, gangs and prostitution.
Sara Hudak said she knew nothing of the charges until hours after authorities entered her home, when Glasgow phoned to say her husband was under arrest.
The next few days, she said, felt like her husband was dead.
“I couldn't fathom him being gone,” she said.
A phone call from the DuPage County jail where Matthew Hudak was being held brought some relief. But by then Sara Hudak had other things to worry about. After the defendants' arrests, authorities impounded their vehicles and froze their financial accounts, she said.
Friends, family members and neighbors stepped up with donations of cooked meals, diapers and other items, she said.
Among those who have rallied around her family are members of the Schaumburg police force and their families, who she says have been very supportive.
Their response testifies to her husband's character, Sara Hudak said.
“He's a good cop, a good father, a good husband and a good friend,” she said of Matthew Hudak, who was released from custody Monday after posting $35,000 bond. Cichy was released Tuesday after posting $25,000 bond, but prosecutors sought to restore O'Brien's original $750,000 cash bond after prosecutors said his wife filed for divorce and does not want him to return home.
The experience hasn't shaken Sara Hudak's faith in law enforcement, but she said it has left her shocked that authorities “can take your entire life away based on an accusation.”Copyright © 2013 Paddock Publications, Inc. All rights reserved.