Ex-Elgin cop who stole from union gets probation, pays restitution

Updated 2/8/2019 6:12 PM
  • William F. Wood

    William F. Wood

A former Elgin police sergeant pleaded guilty to a reduced charge Friday for stealing from the police union from 2007 to 2013 to pay bills as he recovered from bankruptcy.

William F. Wood, 51, who resigned in 2017 after 25 years in the department, was charged in spring 2018 with felony theft of stealing more than $34,000 from the union while serving as its president and treasurer.

The charges came from an investigation that began in August 2017 after fellow officers found a check written to an insurance company for Wood's vehicle while cleaning out a locker the union no longer used.

Officers found other checks to ComEd, and Wood was called to the office of then-Police Chief Jeff Swoboda.

"(Wood) explained he took money from the union account to pay basic bills and originally had the intent to pay it back. He apologized multiple times for his actions," according to an Elgin police report.

Wood, who now lives in Louisiana, pleaded guilty to a reduced charge of misdemeanor theft Friday. The original felony charges had a penalty ranging from probation to up to seven years in prison.

Wood was placed on two years of probation and was ordered to pay $34,702 in restitution, which he did in full Friday. Judge John Barsanti accepted the plea.

"He feels very bad. He's ashamed," defense attorney Gary Johnson said of Wood, who served as school resource officer at Elgin High School and was a sergeant in the technical investigations unit. "He was a great cop. This (misdemeanor conviction) is something that's part of his record. Obviously, this is a stain on that, but it doesn't destroy a man's career."

After Wood's arrest, the union revamped and tightened its policies and procedures, requiring two signatures for checks. The police union did not immediately return a message Friday.

Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon said the guilty plea and restitution hold Wood accountable for his actions. "Mr. Wood violated the trust of the public and his fellow officers," he said in a statement. "Unfortunately, after a lengthy career in public service, he tarnished his record." Johnson said his client cooperated fully with authorities and Wood's financial problems were not due to gambling.

"He was in pretty dire financial straits," Johnson said. "He cooperated to a ridiculous extent, completely."

If Wood violates his probation, he could be resentenced to up to a year in jail.

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