Publicly released reports on the investigation of the Philippine extortion scheme targeting former state Rep. Ron Sandack were redacted to protect his personal privacy — including screenshots of a Skype video with a woman — and to shield police techniques, attorneys for Downers Grove said Friday.
The village revealed the reasons for the police report redactions after several media outlets challenged the second release of information into the investigation in appeals to the Illinois attorney general’s office.
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 her 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.
Sandack himself issued a statement that day, 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.
On Friday, the Village of Downers revealed information was redacted in Sandack’s report to protect private information, such as 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 Money Gram and Western Union receipts, as well as screen shots of Skype messages.
Downers Grove attorneys also said information was redacted to withhold information related to the identity of the suspects, search warrants and subpoenas and the police department’s own specialized investigative techniques.
“Although no threat to life was present in this case, these specialized investigative techniques were developed to assist with the investigation of kidnapping cases, ” attorneys wrote in their response to the attorney general’s office.
A portion of the response to the attorney general’s office included its own redactions:
“Additionally, the public-at-large may not be aware, and should not be aware that … [redacted info].”
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.”