A Wheaton murder suspect cheated taxpayers for nearly three years by receiving the services of a public defender while quietly collecting checks from the government, prosecutors alleged in court Tuesday.
Now, Michael Delaney, 48, could face additional charges and lose his free legal representation.
"He's not indigent," DuPage County Prosecutor Tim Diamond said. "He's been hiding it for years."
A public defender was assigned to represent Delaney at his first court appearance in the June 19, 2009, stabbing of 40-year-old Michael Scalzo of Wheaton.
In court Tuesday, Diamond told a judge Delany never filled out a sworn affidavit stating his income, assets and liabilities, a step commonly taken before public defenders are assigned.
Diamond said the prosecution recently learned Delaney, an Army veteran, had continued to collect checks from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs while locked up in the county jail.
The defendant was believed to be holding a "significant" amount of money, Diamond said. He argued that unless action is taken, Delaney "will be able to spend that money in jail however he wants and at taxpayers' expense."
At Judge Daniel Guerin's order, Delaney completed an affidavit in court Tuesday detailing monthly income of $1,290 in veteran benefits and $778 in social security.
But he told the judge he received only three checks from Veterans Affairs, and that he has canceled his social security checks and is now being asked to repay $26,000.
When pressed on whether he was still receiving checks, Delaney said, "I shouldn't get any more."
"I've been taking care of my kids and my mother and sister," he said.
Eligibility for a public defender is based on a variety of factors, from household size to income. Generally, a single person with no dependents fits the criteria earning less than $14,000 a year, or 125 percent of the official poverty level, according to an administrative court order.
Based on the information Delaney provided, he could get about $25,000 a year -- or roughly $70,000 since his incarceration -- if all checks were received.
Delaney, who previously served prison time for aggravated battery, has pleaded not guilty to stabbing Scalzo six times on the 800 block of Crescent Street in Wheaton. He is awaiting trial.
The discussion about his finances created a tricky situation for his attorney, whose overriding charge is to look out for his client's best interest. Assistant Public Defender Brian Jacobs said he serves at the will of the court and took no position on the issue.
Guerin expressed reluctance to change course after nearly three years, saying reimbursement to the public defender's office could take place once the case is resolved.
"The case is so old, I'd like to see it proceed," he said.
Diamond said the state's attorney's office will investigate whether Delaney gave an accurate accounting of his income Tuesday while under oath. "If appropriate, we'll bring additional criminal charges against him," he said.
Delaney is due back in court April 18.