Why Lake County's new sheriff is taking a stand on shutdown, immigration

Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg is less than two months into his tenure, but already he's proving not to be shy when it comes to taking a stand on a controversy.

Idleburg on Tuesday joined about 50 law enforcement leaders from across the country in signing a letter urging President Donald Trump and members of Congress to settle their differences over immigration and end the partial government shutdown.

Idleburg - himself a former federal agent - is the only official from Illinois to endorse the letter.

"Nobody wins with the federal government being shut down," he said. "In fact, millions of people lose."

The letter from the Law Enforcement Immigration Task Force says of the shutdown, "These circumstances threaten public safety and cannot continue."

Instead of a border wall, the authors suggests compromise over "targeted investments in border security," such as greater efforts at ports of entry, strategic deployment of new technology along the southern border, and improvements to border patrol agents' sightlines along the Rio Grande.

The letter also calls for immigration reform that would bring undocumented immigrants into the legal immigration system. That would encourage immigrants to work with local law enforcement and make everyone safer, the letter states.

Politics aside

The stance is more than a political one for Idleburg, a Democrat from Zion. The sheriff's office often partners with federal law enforcement agents on cases involving gangs, drugs and human trafficking, and that work is compromised by the shutdown.

For example, while federal agents continue to work, the money they need to keep tips coming from informants is drying up, Idleburg's office reported. And federal grant dollars the sheriff's office relies on to conduct special enforcement campaigns might not arrive.

"This administration is not going to sit silent if it believes there's an issue that's affecting public safety," Anthony Vega, Idleburg's chief of staff, told us Wednesday. "The public expects the sheriff to speak out on these issues."

Idleburg's office seems unconcerned about potential backlash from those with passionate beliefs on either side of the immigration debate.

"The priority for Sheriff Idleburg is public safety," Vega said. "When there is an opportunity to apply pressure on Congress and the executive branch, it can only help."

Swatting suspect

A Des Plaines man known to his Twitter followers as @internetlord and @defeat might be away from social media for a while.

Neal Patel, 23, faces decades in prison after federal authorities in Los Angeles unsealed indictments this week alleging he was part of a nationwide "swatting" conspiracy to make phony reports of bombs and murders to police departments, high schools and a convention center across the country.

Among the conspirators' victims, the indictments allege, were high school students and police in Gurnee.

Patel was arrested Wednesday by the FBI on charges of conspiracy, conveying false information concerning the use of an explosive device and bank fraud, according to the LA-based U.S. attorney's office for the Central District of California. Indicted along with him were Tyler Stewart, 19, of Gulf Breeze, Florida, (aka @tragic) and Logan Patten, 19, of Greenwood, Missouri.

The trio are accused of working with admitted swatter Tyler Rai Barriss of Los Angeles, who made national headlines in 2017 when he was charged in connection with a hoax that led police in Wichita, Kansas, to kill an innocent man they'd been led to believe was an armed hostage-taker.

Swatting occurs when someone makes a false report of a serious law enforcement emergency, like a murder or hostage situation, to trigger a massive police response to an address. The term "swatting" is a reference to a police SWAT unit that might respond to that kind of a report.

The details

Federal prosecutors say Patel conspired with Barriss in early December 2017 to make false reports to police in Milford, Connecticut. The pair also conspired to make a false bomb threat targeting a video game convention in Dallas, according to the indictment.

Along with conspiracy, Patel faces bank fraud charges accusing him of using unauthorized credit card numbers to purchase clothing for Barriss.

Gurnee fell victim to the swatting in December 2017, when Stewart and Barriss conspired to cause the evacuation of an unnamed high school by making two false bomb threats, the indictment alleges. In the second instance, Barriss called Gurnee police, claimed explosives were in a high school classroom, and said he was high on methamphetamine and considering shooting teachers and students, authorities say.

If found guilty of bank fraud, Patel faces up to 30 years in prison. The conspiracy charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, while the conveying false information charge is punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

In the meantime, Barriss faces 20 to 25 years in prison when sentenced in March, after he admitted guilt Nov. 13 to 51 charges brought by federal prosecutors in Los Angeles, Kansas, and Washington, D.C.

Family business

Siblings Rocio Miranda, left, and Joaquin Miranda began their new careers working for the Aurora Police Department two weeks ago. Rocio is a telecommunications operator and Joaquin is a police cadet. Courtesy of the City of Aurora

A new sibling duo have joined Aurora's Public Safety Team. Telecommunications Operator Rocio Miranda and Police Cadet Joaquin Miranda began their careers with the City of Aurora on the same day two weeks ago.

The Mirandas are graduates of East Aurora High School, and both are proud soldiers in the U.S. Army. Rocio also teaches exercise classes while Joaquin mentors younger students.

"Some people wait their whole lives to meet their heroes. I raised mine," said their mother, Veronica.

Parting shot

Algonquin police Sgt. Douglas Lamz retired last week after more than three decades of service to the village. Courtesy of Algonquin Police Department

Best wishes to longtime Algonquin police Sgt. Douglas Lamz, who retired last week after more than three decades on the force.

Most of that time was spent as the head of the department's Investigations Division, supervising all major criminal cases in the village since 1996.

"Maybe most importantly, Sgt. Lamz was a friend and mentor to many past and present members of the Algonquin Police Department, including current command staff," reads a farewell message on the department's Facebook page. "His dedication to the communities' residents and visitors, and his passion for service has been a positive influence on all the lives he's touched."

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Crime: Des Plaines man accused of major false reports

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