Crime pays victims millions from Illinois fund

An ABC7 I-Team Investigation
Illinois crime victims or their survivors have been paid millions in dollars from a little-known state-run program that's supposed to help pay for expenses from the terrible aftermath of a violent crime.

The I-Team looked at when crime pays - and who decides which victims get money and how much.

"We pulled over to check her tire and then the next thing they know, they started shooting at her car! It's just scary, terrible like devastating," said crime victim Jarrod Love.

Jarrod Love said he was shot in the neck and ear on Chicago's West Side last fall.

The .45 caliber round left in his neck was left there for a month before doctors could take it out.

"It just felt like I was under attack... I just thank God I'm alive but I'm still paranoid and scared to come outside really, you don't do anything just scary," said Love.

After the attack, Love said he applied to the Illinois Crime Victims Compensation Program, where victims or their families can be paid up to $27,000 for losses related to a violent crime. Each year, hundreds of people are paid thousands of dollars, but according to the state, Love only qualified for $12.76. That's 42 cents for each mile he had to drive back and forth to the hospital.

"People tell me like, 'My friend got $4,000, $5,000, $7,500 and you only got $12?' I was like, maybe they lied on their application, but I was honest on my application," said Love.

"When they offered me help, they told me anything my daughter needed," said Nikki Smallwood, mother of a sexual assault victim.

Smallwood's teen daughter was raped last summer. She said the state's crime fund representative promised to help her, but wouldn't cover her expenses, including lost work.

"Going to court, I lost the one job because when it first happened I missed a lot of work. It was a temp job, so I missed a lot of work there because I was at the police station every single day for four weeks," said Smallwood. "I feel my daughter didn't get any justice to begin with so to explain all this to her is very hard, she doesn't understand."

Eventually, she gave up.

"I feel like we lost everything. She lost her innocence... I'm just not fighting anymore, it doesn't seem to help, what I have to say doesn't seem to matter," said Smallwood.

Grandmother Iola Mae Burress survived a shooting in May of 2015. "I guess they thought they would kill me, but the Lord blessed me to be living," said Burress.

She was in her eighties when shot while sitting on her South Side porch. But because the family couldn't come up with her receipts for treatment and the state couldn't find which providers she'd been helped by, she only got $42.47. That came out to roughly $10 for each time the South Side grandmother was shot.

While tax dollars are used to administer any government program, Victim Compensation funds under the law also come from court imposed offender fines and fees.

In 2016, nearly $5 million was handed over under this program by the state of Illinois. So far this year the figure is nearly $1.5 million. It is the Illinois State Court of Claims that makes final decisions as to who gets how much money. We asked officials of the Court of Claims how they make those determinations. We were told that the decisions speak for themselves.

The I-Team uncovered thousands of dollars paid to families of murder victims. Some of the victims were convicted felons and some had apparent gang connections posted on social media accounts. One victim wrote "CPDK -- Chicago Police Department killer," while others were pictured with guns.

"Really?" said Love when the I-Team showed him the pictures. He and other crime victims couldn't believe the photos the I-Team uncovered.

"I'm a hardworking, paying citizen, taxpaying citizen, I have no record or none of that and to give people that type of money that's ridiculous. That means they're not investigating," said Love.

The I-Team even found one shooting victim the state paid the maximum amount, $27,000, who spent the past few months posting numerous Facebook photos pointing guns, holding a large wad of money: "on the road ta richs."

State officials say his $27,000 payment went towards medical expenses.

In each case, the Illinois Attorney General recommends a payment amount to the Court of Claims. A spokesperson for the attorney general says they apply state law and review receipts, death certificates and other expenses. The AG's office says all of that was done in cases the I-Team cited.

According to state officials, a history of criminal activity by the victim does not preclude payments to relatives unless the victim was committing a crime at the time he or she was victimized.

The Illinois Attorney General provided this statement on the Victim Fund decision process:
CLICK HERE to read the statement in full.
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