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Former Rep. Sandack paid $3,000 in extortion scheme

Rep. Ron Sandack in 2014. File Photo.| Brian Jackson/Sun-Times

Former state Rep. Ron Sandack paid an extortion ring $3,000 not to reveal “highly personal” information — including proof of a Skype encounter with a woman, according to new documents uncovered after an Illinois Attorney General’s office review.

But the former west suburban legislator balked when the ring hit him up for another $5,000, according to the newly released reports.

Downers Grove police on Sept. 16 revealed Sandack was lured into a scam that began with him communicating with a young woman online, and ended in him feeling compelled to send money and seeing a fake Facebook account set up in his name. Sources said a video of that Skype encounter was posted on Facebook with Sandack’s contacts tagged along with it.

Screenshots of some of the Skype messages were included in the police investigation.

The attorney general’s office released the results of their review, as well as an opinion, on Thursday after several media outlets requested a review of information received in response to a Freedom of Information Act request to the Downers Grove Police Department.

New information includes the amount of money Sandack sent — $1,000 via Western Union on July 13, and $2,000 via MoneyGram on July 14. When the ring requested $5,000 more, Sandack ignored the request and told police, documents show.

Newly uncovered information shows police believe the international extortion ring targeted “high profile individuals” that were primarily “in the medical field as doctors or real estate agents and includes political figures.”

A newly uncovered Western Union report shows the extortion schemers netted $14,393.49 between Sept. 17, 2015 and July 17, 2016. The amounts ranged from $100 to $2,000, with three of those payments being $500, the documents show.

There has been a back and forth between the Village of Downers Grove and the Attorney General’s office regarding portions of the report that were redacted, including a lengthy personal narrative of what happened.

The attorney general’s office in its opinion wrote that the narrative should have been redacted because it contains “highly personal and specific information concerning how Mr. Sandack was allegedly lured into an extortion scheme, how the extortion was carried out and how he responded.”

They argued there is no “legitimate public interest” in disclosing that narrative, which would go against Sandack’s right to privacy.

In late September, attorneys for Downers Grove said publicly released reports on the investigation of the Philippine extortion scheme were redacted to protect Sandack’s personal privacy — including screenshots of a Skype video with a woman.

Sandack himself issued a statement, admitting he was extorted and lured to “engage in inappropriate online conversations.”

Sandack’s admission came after Downers Grove police released details about the bizarre episode in 34 pages of reports that conclude they can’t seek criminal charges in the case because the apparent perpetrator or perpetrators live in the Philippines.

The village initially redacted the former legislator’s home address, telephone number, Facebook account names, Skype usernames and account transaction numbers. But it also revealed a “withheld in full” packet with documents involving his MoneyGram and Western Union receipts, as well as screen shots of Skype messages.

The attorney general’s office in its review on Thursday provided documentation of the Moneygram and Western Union receipts, as well as the Skype and Facebook usernames, saying those shouldn’t have been redacted.

Sandack, 52, who as a state lawmaker was very active on social media, abruptly resigned from the Legislature on July 24, saying “cyber security issues” forced him to re-evaluate his “continued public service.”

Questions surrounding his resignation only deepened after Sandack revealed he reported the matter to police — and police refused to discuss the case, initially releasing only a two-page incident report with most details redacted.

Police reported that Sandack was “threatened” by the messages but offered no details. Large portions of their reports are redacted, including specifics about what happened during the video chat, the contents of the Facebook messages Sandack exchanged with the woman and the nature of the fake Facebook account set up in Sandack’s name.

Whether the fake account contained potentially embarrassing information is unclear; large portions of the police documents remain redacted.

Regardless, Sandack wired money to the Philippines because he felt threatened, according to police, who classified the case as “extortion.”

In his statement, Sandack — a Republican who became Gov. Bruce Rauner’s most vocal ally in the Illinois House — said the woman lured him in.

“This past July, I was the target of an international crime ring focusing on high-profile individuals luring them to engage in inappropriate online conversations with the intent of extortion,” Sandack said. “I took their bait and fell for it hook, line and sinker.”