Widow of disgraced Fox Lake police lieutenant faces gets 24 months probation in embezzlement case

Melodie Gliniewicz pleaded guilty to taking money from Fox Lake Explorers Program
WAUKEGAN, Ill. (WLS) -- A Lake County judge sentenced the widow of a disgraced Fox Lake police lieutenant to 24 months of probation for her role in an embezzlement scheme Tuesday.

Melodie Gliniewicz pleaded guilty in February, admitting she took money from a police youth explorers program.

"There's no question as to the defendant's guilt as to the felony that has been charged here," Judge James Booras said.

WATCH | Melodie Gliniewicz speaks at sentencing hearing

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"I want to make it clear, I never took a cent from the explorer fund no matter what's been reported," Melodie Gliniewicz told the courtroom.

Gliniewicz also was given the possibility of 90 days in jail. The judge said the jail time would only be invoked if she violates the terms of her probation.

"I didn't know my husband was co-mingling the funds and I never knew the full amount he was co-mingling until after his death," Melodie Gliniewicz told the courtroom Tuesday.

In 2015, prosecutors said her husband, Lt. Joe Gliniewicz, staged his suicide to make it look like a homicide to cover up the embezzlement. The money was allegedly used on things like movie tickets, restaurants, vacations and gym memberships.

"I want to make it clear, I never took a cent from the explorer fund, no matter what's been reported," Gliniewicz said in an emotional statement that capped off the hearing.

Gliniewicz was charged in 2016 with 11 felony counts of money laundering and using charitable funds for personal use. Her guilty plea resulted in all other charges being dropped, and guaranteed she would not have to stand trial.

During the hearing, several witnesses were called on both sides. A 26-minute video interrogation of Melodie Gliniewicz, done shortly after her husband's death, was also played. In it, she admits he took money from the Youth Explorer's program, but insisting those funds, were always paid back.

"People want to go, 'That's embezzling funds.' No, not when you pay it back," Gliniewicz was heard saying in the video. "Every time he borrowed money he'd let me know, and I'd write it down."

Prosecutors called a former district executive with the Boy Scouts of America, who also oversaw a Fox Lake Police Explorer post.

He was asked several questions about his interactions with Lt. Gliniewicz, who headed the post.

And he recalled a call he got from Melodie Gliniewicz in August of 2015 in which she was pleading with him to move the post's charter to the American Legion because it was in jeopardy.

"She begged and pleaded with me to move that charter to the American Legion. That explorer post meant everything to Joe, and he didn't want to lose it," William Peppler said. "Basically, I hate to use the word begging, but pleading to get that done to save that post because she was very afraid, Joe was very afraid, that the city was going to dissolve that program."

Prosecutors also brought in a forensic accountant to show how starting in 2009, tens of thousands of dollars were taken from a Youth Explorers bank account to pay for things like a trip to Hawaii, gym memberships, restaurants, and even pornography.

But the accountant said there was never a clear link that Melodie Gliniewicz had been directly responsible for any of the transactions.

Gliniewicz's defense attorney spoke in February when she pleaded guilty to one count of deceptive practices for her part in her husband's embezzlement scheme.

"She feels very strongly actually that she is not culpable; however, she took responsibility for her actions to put this behind her," attorney Don Morrison said.

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Prosecutors had said publicly they were seeking probation, but also asked for a felony conviction on her record.

"This case from 2015 has finally ended with the public learning about Joe and Melodie's financial crimes," Lake County State's Attorney Eric Rinehart said. "She said she was guilty and that public acknowledgment along with successful monitoring from our felony probation unit will protect our community and prevent her from financially deceiving others again. We will still have to wait to see if she is fully rehabilitated and whether she can comply with the court's orders. But for today, we know that people understand they cannot misuse charitable funds in Lake County without consequences."

The judge also granted Gliniewicz' attorneys' request for second-chance probation, which is only offered to first-time offenders. If she satisfies the conditions of her probation, the felony conviction will be cleared from her record - potentially making her eligible to collect her husband's pension.

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