Racketeering by Kane sheriff's office alleged in federal lawsuit

Updated 2/24/2016 5:20 PM

Three people strip-searched after a traffic stop near Elgin last year have sued the Kane County sheriff's department and its officers, arguing their constitutional rights were violated and that the department has used forfeiture laws to support a lucrative racketeering operation to take millions from innocent drivers.

Kentucky residents American Martinez and Rodolfo Tapia this month filed the federal lawsuit, which also includes a third plaintiff, Ismael Jaimes-Meza.


Jaimes-Meza, 24, of Minnesota, was charged with methamphetamine possession, but prosecutors dismissed the charges after his strip search was declared illegal by a Kane County judge because deputies failed to fill out a special report or get permission from a supervisor.

The lawsuit argues that Sgts. Ron Hain and Scott Flowers violated the trio's Fourth and 14th amendments to the Constitution that protect against unreasonable search and seizure and equal protection under law, respectively, in an April 15, 2015, traffic stop, as well as the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act.

The Kane County state's attorney's office, which will defend the sheriff's department in the lawsuit, said it was aware of the lawsuit but does not comment on ongoing litigation.

Lt. Pat Gengler, spokesman for the sheriff's office, said it is the office's policy not to comment on litigation, and that the office was aware of the lawsuit but had not yet been served with it.

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In the lawsuit, the three argue Hain was taught by a for-profit company how to drag out traffic stops, conduct searches of vehicles without a warrant and seize assets under the state's forfeiture laws.

The suit argues Hain has stated asset forfeiture could be a "tax-liberating gold mine" and that governments can "pull in expendable cash hand over fist."

The three argue in the lawsuit Hain did not have a warrant or probable cause to search them or their vehicle after the April traffic stop or seize $5,100 cash or a debit card with a $566 balance. Also, other deputies on the scene did not intervene when the three were being needlessly detained.

"It is common for police officers employed with defendant Kane County to stop and prolong the detention of or falsely arrest citizens, to seize their property, and to conduct strip searches on citizens, all without legally sufficient justification," read part of the lawsuit.


Martinez and Tapia argue in the lawsuit they were falsely imprisoned when they were taken the Kane County sheriff's department on an "investigative hold," strip-searched, fingerprinted and held overnight.

The lawsuit also argues Martinez and Tapia were pulled over May 15, 2015, by Hain in Kane County and their vehicle searched, again without probable cause.

The next date the lawsuit is due in court was unavailable. The lawsuit seeks compensatory and punitive damages.


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