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posted: 2/25/2014 2:03 PM

Mt. Prospect honors its Officer of the Year

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  • Officer Richard LaBarbera, left, and Officer Michael Angarola.

       Officer Richard LaBarbera, left, and Officer Michael Angarola.
    Steve Zalusky | Staff Photographer

 

Much good police work is conducted in obscurity. The public doesn't often get to see the activity behind the scenes that leads to a major arrest, and officers often have to maintain a high degree of secrecy.

Which explains why, as Mount Prospect honored its Officer of the Year last week, the winner was identified only as "Investigator A" and one of the runners-up as "Investigator B."

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That didn't stop Deputy Chief Tim Janowick from talking about the valuable undercover work "Investigator A" had done.

Among Investigator A's accomplishments was gaining information from an informant about cannabis traffic through U.S. mail. Janowick said the investigator worked with postal inspectors to uncover a package containing one pound of cannabis, and also $12,000 in U.S. currency.

In addition, more information was received about other packages delivered under a deceased person's name. The result was an arrest for possession with intent to deliver.

Investigator A's undercover work also yielded information about burglary suspects who bragged about their exploits in the Northwest suburbs, providing very specific information. Investigator A narrowed the location and contacted the local law enforcement agency.

The suspects were subsequently identified and one was charged with residential burglary, "All because of the ability to keep open lines of communication going with folks who have information," Janowick said.

Investigator A's tenacity and attention to detail brought a case involving retail theft rings to a successful conclusion.

The case began in December 2012 and ended in June 2013, involving stolen merchandise being taken into Chicago, where it was fenced.

Investigator A worked with the Chicago Police Department, store owners and their loss prevention agents. Investigator A was able to obtain 10 search warrants, which eventually led to three people charged with possession of stolen property, money laundering and theft -- plus the seizure of five vehicles worth about $100,000; $200,000 in cash and $600,000 in financial assets -- and, the recovery of more than $100,000 in stolen property.

Already one subject has pleaded guilty, while the other cases are pending.

"If you have ever seen what it is like to go through financials on a case like this, going through six banker boxes of financial records is a little bit tedious," Janowick said.

This year's Office of the Year runners-up included Officer Richard LaBarbera, who Janowick called "a tenacious crime fighter.

"He is very big on gang intelligence and interdiction within the community," Janowick said. "He shares significant information with the special investigations unit, which allows them to work additional cases."

LaBarbera tracked down a man whom a caller said was carrying a gun on the south side of town. The officer traced the cellphone number of the caller to the suspect's girlfriend. LaBarbera then knocked on the door of the apartment, which was answered by the suspect, who admitted making the call himself. In the arrest not only the gun, but drugs were also recovered.

Janowick said LaBarbera made 39 arrests last year and is also involved in such causes as Special Olympics.

Another runner up is last year's Officer of the Year, Michael Angarola, a five-year veteran. Last year, he was responsible for 70 DUI arrests. During one, a search of the vehicle unearthed more than 30 debit cards -- with names on them -- and gift cards. The subject claimed the cards were for purchasing gas. With another investigator Angarola identified 19 cardholders, while felony charges were filed against the driver.

One of those victims, from Baltimore, wrote the department that the police prevented additional heartaches. The police, she said, provided important information for the Internal Revenue Service for its investigation.

The final runner up is another anonymous officer, Investigator B, a five-year veteran of the force whose undercover work included finding numerous pawnshop receipts after a routine stop. Five days later, Investigator B encountered the subject again and found him in possession of a stolen bicycle and cannabis.

The subject not only confessed, but also admitted to vandalizing park district property with graffiti and stealing alcohol from grocery stores 30 times in the past couple of years.

Some stolen property was recovered, including a computer stolen from a local school, and stolen jewelry.

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