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CHICAGO -- At least a dozen Chicago Police officers are under suspicion in an investigation that led to Thursday's arrests of a cop and a tow company owner, sources said Thursday.
Officer Joseph A. Grillo and Collision Towing owner Jim "Meatball" Athans are accused of helping another cop carry out an insurance scam. Grillo, 45, was arrested Thursday morning at O'Hare Airport after getting off a plane, the FBI said. He and Athans, 39, of Wood Dale, have been charged with mail fraud, a felony.
In February 2007, Grillo approached Athans on behalf of an officer who owned a Volkswagen. Grillo asked Athans to make the car disappear, the FBI said.
Athans arranged to tow the VW from the Grand Central police district lot, where a $100 bill was waiting in the car along with the keys, the FBI said.
"It's gonna disappear," Athans allegedly told Grillo in a wiretapped conversation.
The car was eventually turned into scrap, and the VW owner received more than $4,000 from State Farm Insurance after filing a claim that his car was stolen.
A 16-month investigation was conducted by the FBI, the Chicago Police internal affairs division and the Internal Revenue Service. The FBI said more charges are expected.
Deputy Police Supt. Peter Brust said it was one of the largest investigations by IAD since 2004. "These actions violate the public's trust and the integrity of this department and will not be tolerated," he said in a written statement.
The last major probe by Internal Affairs, along with the state's attorney's office, led to charges against seven Special Operations Section officers of robbing citizens.
"This could be bigger," one source said Thursday. No one would say what the investigation uncovered involving other officers.
The FBI paid an informant, also a tow company owner, for his time and use of his trucks and storage lot, a federal complaint unsealed Thursday said.
Grillo, a Grand Central District officer, has led "an entirely law-abiding life" and has a spotless service record, said his attorney, Barry Sheppard. After a court hearing Thursday, the burly Grillo, wearing an orange jail jumpsuit and leg irons, was greeted by his fiancee, who stroked his sideburns before he was escorted out of the courtroom.
An attorney for Athans would not comment.
Grillo and another officer are facing an unrelated lawsuit. They're accused of breaking the wrist of a man they arrested for allegedly stealing a car on April 17, 2007. The suspect, George Fox, is in the Cook County Jail with no bond, records show.