Mario DePasquale

Mario DePasquale

Ex-McCook police chief sentenced to 27 months in extortion plot

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By Bob Bong

Mario DePasquale, the former police chief of McCook, was sentenced last week to more than two years in federal prison after pleading guilty last year to conspiring with the village’s former mayor to extort two businessmen out of tens of thousands of dollars.

DePasquale, 50, was sentenced February 21 to 27 months in prison by U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo.

DePasquale was charged in 2020 as part of a sprawling federal corruption probe that also ensnared his former boss, McCook Mayor Jeffrey Tobolski, as well as other suburban mayors and Democratic power players.

“The idea of a police chief extorting money from local businesses is just — I’d like to think that it was just not done, at least not in this country in the 21st century,” U.S. District Judge Elaine Bucklo said before handing down the sentence.

In a statement to the court, DePasquale said he was a good man who fell in with a corrupt crowd.

“I became surrounded by and ultimately involved with some very bad people,” DePasquale said. “These were people without morals, who were ethically bankrupt. I wish I had an answer.”

He was referring to former McCook Mayor Jeff Tobolski, who at the time was also a Cook County commissioner.

Tobolski pleaded guilty in September 2020 to participating in the extortion schemes with DePasquale and has been cooperating with the government while awaiting sentencing. No sentencing date for Tobolski has been announced.

In asking for probation DePasquale’s attorney, Jonathan Minkus, said his client had a terrible “lapse of judgment” when he went along with the extortion scheme of the mayor.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Tiffany Ardam argued for a significant prison term of up to four years, saying DePasquale not only hurt his victims but betrayed his oath to protect and serve the residents of McCook.

DePasquale, who became McCook’s police chief in 2013, admitted in his 20-page plea agreement with prosecutors that in 2016 he conspired with Tobolski to shake down a business owner who ran a restaurant at a McCook-owned facility and needed the mayor’s approval to host events with liquor.

The charges stated DePasquale demanded the restaurant owner — identified only as Individual A — pay $1,500 in bribes for each “themed event” that he wanted to host. DePasquale later picked up the money in person, and he and Tobolski split the cash, according to the plea.

DePasquale collected $29,700 in cash from the business owner, who “reasonably feared” that if payments were not made, Tobolski and DePasquale would interfere with the themed nights and the restaurant “would go out of business,” according to the plea.

DePasquale also admitted to a second extortion scheme involving another new business owner in town, identified as Individual B. According to the plea, beginning in 2015, DePasquale and Tobolski demanded $1,000 monthly payments from Individual B, who agreed to pay out of fear of losing the business.

In February 2015, DePasquale summoned Individual B to his office, where, “while armed and wearing a badge,” DePasquale told the business owner that they had to make the payments just like the previous owner did.

When Individual B asked what would happen if the payments were not made, DePasquale said words to the effect that “it would not be good” for the company, according to the plea.

Individual B made the $1,000 monthly payments from 2015 to 2019, when the FBI raided McCook’s village hall along with a series of other searches across the suburbs. In all, DePasquale, on behalf of Tobolski, collected about $55,000 from Individual B, according to the plea.

In his plea agreement, Tobolski admitted that he extorted or collected bribes from at least three other people by abusing his official position as mayor or county commissioner. The number of bribes he collected totaled at least $250,000, though the plea does not spell out how many victims were involved.

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