More arrests as Chicago police corruption investigation widens; 3

Monday, December 4th 2006, 8:06 pm
By: News On 6

CHICAGO (AP) Three police officers were charged Monday in a probe into allegations of officers shaking down drug suspects, and authorities tacked on additional charges for three other officers indicted earlier.

James McGovern, 40, Frank Villareal, 38, and Margaret Hopkins, 32, all members of the department's special operations section, turned themselves in Monday, said Marci Jensen, a spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office.

All three were charged with official misconduct, and Villareal and Hopkins also were charged with home invasion. Villareal also was charged with armed violence. Authorities did not provide any other information.

In September, four other members of the same special operations unit, which focuses on gangs and drugs, were charged with robbery, kidnapping and false arrests. All four pleaded not guilty.

Three of those officers turned themselves in Monday on additional charges of home invasion and official misconduct, Jensen said.

In the earlier indictment, the officers were accused of using their badges to intimidate people and gain access to their homes, and of robbing, kidnapping and intimidating drug dealers. Those accusations forced prosecutors to drop felony charges against dozens of suspects in more than 100 cases, the state's attorney's office has said.

Superintendent Phil Cline said police are committed to rooting out bad officers. "No one is above the law, not even a Chicago police officer," he said Monday in a news release.

If convicted, McGovern faces a maximum of five years in prison; Villareal and Hopkins could spend up to 30 years in prison, Jensen said.

At a hearing Monday, bond was set at $50,000 for McGovern. The other five charged Monday were due in court Tuesday.

A man who answered the phone at a listing for a Frank Villareal identified himself as the officer's father, saying he believed his son is innocent.

"In 13 or 14 years in the service, he's never done anything wrong," he said. "And I've always talked to him about being on the up and up. As far as I'm concerned, he's a decent, outstanding boy."

There was no answer at a listing for a Margaret Hopkins, and a listing for McGovern couldn't be found. Neither the state's attorney's office nor the police department could provide names of the defendants' attorneys.