Former state Rep. Ron Sandack on Friday said he was extorted via Facebook and Skype by a woman who lured him “to engage in inappropriate online conversations.”
Sandack’s admission came after Downers Grove police released new 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 reports paint a picture of a middle-aged man sucked into a scheme that began with him communicating with a young woman online and ended with him feeling compelled to send her money and seeing a fake Facebook account set up in his 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.
“Poor decisions on my part enabled me to be a victim and, as a responsible citizen, I reported it and have been working with the police.”
The governor’s office declined to comment.
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, releasing only a two-page incident report with most details redacted.
That report — which was re-released with more details on Friday now that the investigation was complete — and the additional reports show Sandack, also a former Downers Grove mayor, accepted a Facebook friend request from the woman on July 7.
On July 12, the two exchanged Facebook messages between noon and 3 p.m. while Sandack was at his law office in St. Charles. Police described those messages as “friendly conversation, like two people getting to know basic information about each other.”
Later that day, Sandack got a Skype video chat call from someone he didn’t recognize and didn’t answer it. A Facebook message followed, telling him the call was from the woman he’d earlier exchanged messages with.
Sandack then answered what he thought was a Skype call from her but saw that the woman on the screen — in her early 20s with long black hair — “did not match the photo that was attached to the Skype account or that of the Facebook account,” police said.
The ensuing video chat “was then ended by Mr. Sandack shortly thereafter.”
The next day, July 13, Sandack began receiving messages seeking money. He responded by wiring an undisclosed amount of cash to the Philippines via Western Union that day.
On July 14, Sandack got another message that included “a list of his Facebook contacts,” police said. The message also “demanded that Sandack send an additional [amount of money] . . . via MoneyGram.” Later that day, Sandack again wired an undisclosed amount of money to the Philippines.
Later July 14, Sandack got a message from another Facebook account that “had taken screen shots from Sandack’s real Facebook account and used them to portray him to be Sandack.” Then, Sandack got a Skype message asking him to wire more money.
“Mr. Sandack responded briefly and then ignored any further message[s] and came to our police department to document the incident,” police said.
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.
Neither the unredacted portions of the reports nor Sandack’s statement spelled out why Sandack felt compelled to send the woman money.
Statement from Former Illinois State Representative Ron Sandack
Now that the Downers Grove Police investigation has concluded I wanted to address the nature of the complaint I filed.
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. I took their bait and fell for it hook, line and sinker. Subsequently, counterfeit social media accounts were created jeopardizing my online identity. Nonetheless, I was a victim. Poor decisions on my part enabled me to be a victim and, as a responsible citizen, I reported it and have been working with the police throughout their investigation. I want it to be clear that no aspect of my involvement in this incident was related to my position as a State Representative nor was the computer state property.
I’m human. I made a mistake for which I am remorseful and ashamed; especially because I have hurt my family, and there is no greater self-inflicted wound than that.
Police found an online forum that detailed two incidents involving the same Skype profile as the one used to communicate with Sandack. Both accounts revealed victims sent money via Western Union or MoneyGram to the Philippines, and both said the incidents began after they met someone on Facebook.
Because the crime originated in the Philippines, all evidence, including search warrants, was sent to authorities there. The FBI could not directly investigate the case, but served as a conduit for information to be passed to the Philippine National Police, police said.
“On 9-13-16, after examining all leads, including subpoena responses and search warrants, it was determined that the offender was in the Philippines when this incident occurred,” police concluded. “At this time all investigative leads have been exhausted with no local charges forthcoming. Case closed.”
Though the police supplemental reports appear to divulge only one fake social media account in Sandack’s name, Sandack said in his statement Friday that “counterfeit social media accounts were created, jeopardizing my online identity.
“I want it to be clear that no aspect of my involvement in this incident was related to my position as a state representative nor was the computer state property,” Sandack said.
“I’m human. I made a mistake for which I am remorseful and ashamed; especially because I have hurt my family, and there is no greater self-inflicted wound than that.”