More than $50,000 in federal refund checks for Pingree Grove and some of its police officers were stolen, and are now trickling into the village after being reissued, officials said.
Altogether, six officers had been paying erroneously into Social Security while also paying into the Illinois Municipal Retirement Fund since the village's police department was created in 2006, Acting Village Administrator Carol Lussky said.
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Lussky said she discovered the error last summer, and the village requested a refund of nearly $120,000 from the federal government, including officers' deductions and the village's contributions. A total refund of about $127,000, including interest, was authorized, she said.
The refunds were issued in the form of 13 separate checks from the U.S. Department of the Treasury made out to the village, Lussky said.
The village received eight checks totaling about $76,000 in October, but five checks were stolen while in transit with the U.S. Postal Service, she said.
One of the stolen checks was forged and cashed last summer at a Walmart in Villa Park, while another check surfaced in Streamwood, Pingree Grove Interim Police Chief Shawn Beane said.
Police officials in Villa Park and Streamwood didn't have information about any arrests.
The U.S. Secret Service and the U.S. Postal Service are leading the investigation, Lussky said.
"It's clear that these were taken prior to getting to the village," Lussky said. "There is no personnel involved within the village. We never received them, that's been shown (during the investigation)."
The Treasury is reissuing the stolen checks, the first of which arrived last week for $9,200, she said.
Lussky said she discovered the error while conducting research into doing a special census in Pingree Grove. If the village surpasses 5,000 residents, it will have to switch to the Downstate Police Pension Fund, she explained.
"It was while investigating that, that it was mentioned that we shouldn't be paying Social Security," she said.
"It was nothing that was an intentional act. It's such a convoluted system."
The rules that determine Social Security and pension fund payments for police officers are complex, said Lussky, who has a temporary administrative role but was hired as Pingree Grove's police chief.
For example, in Hanover Park, where Lussky previously worked, officers pay into both Social Security and their pension fund, she said.
"It is a very confusing thing, it's not just cut and dry," Beane said.
"Nobody's happy when they're not getting the money that's due to them. However, that's not a willful event that made this happen."