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Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, seen here in a December 2004 photo.

The Watchdogs: David Koschman witness: I felt intimidated by investigator

SHARE The Watchdogs: David Koschman witness: I felt intimidated by investigator
SHARE The Watchdogs: David Koschman witness: I felt intimidated by investigator

A witness in the David Koschman case was visited last month by a private investigator he says claimed to be working for Koschman’s mother.

The man actually was working on behalf of Richard J. “R.J.” Vanecko, the nephew of former Mayor Richard M. Daley who’s under renewed investigation in Koschman’s 2004 death.

The visit took place April 21 – a Saturday afternoon.

Two days later, Cook County Circuit Judge Michael P. Toomin appointed former U.S. Attorney Dan K. Webb as a special prosecutor to re-investigate the death and also determine whether anyone from the Chicago Police Department or Cook County state’s attorney’s office “acted intentionally to suppress and conceal evidence” to keep Daley’s nephew from facing charges.

The witness – who asked that his name not be published – says he was interviewed by Webb’s staff about the visit.

The private investigator – retired Chicago Police Officer Thomas M. O’Connor – was working for Terence P. Gillespie, a criminal defense attorney representing Vanecko.

Gillespie and O’Connor acknowledge that O’Connor visited the witness but deny he said he was working for Koschman’s mother. “Absolutely not,” says O’Connor.

He referred further questions to Gillespie, who says: “He didn’t intend to, nor did, he misrepresent himself.”

O’Connor showed up at the witness’ home and told him he was helping Nanci Koschman prepare a civil lawsuit regarding her son’s death, the witness says.

The witness says he talked with O’Connor about the drunken confrontation on April 25, 2004, that ended when Vanecko punched Koschman in the face and ran away. Koschman died 11 days later.

Two days after talking with O’Connor – on the day that Toomin appointed Webb, in response to a request from Nanci Koschman to bring in a special prosecutor – the witness called the Chicago Sun-Times and asked whether Koschman’s mother had hired a private investigator.

The witness says he then called O’Connor, who told him he was working for Vanecko’s lawyer.

The witness says he felt intimidated by O’Connor and contacted Webb, whose staff interviewed him the following day.

O’Connor retired from the police department in 2008. Gillespie says O’Connor works as a private investigator for IFPC Worldwide, a security company owned by James Fruin, a retired Chicago Police commander.

Vanecko is a friend of Fruin’s son, Michael Fruin, who also works for the security firm. Both attended Loyola Academy high school in Wilmette.

Michael Fruin graduated in 1991 with Kevin McCarthy, who was part of the group with Vanecko on the night of the confrontation with Koschman on Division Street near Dearborn.

Vanecko graduated in 1992 with Phillip Kohler, one of two “independent witnesses,” in the words of prosecutors, to what happened between Vanecko and Koschman. Kohler has said he didn’t recognize Vanecko that night but, after news reports identified Vanecko, recalled that they’d had “a couple classes” together.

Fruin’s company previously has been linked by federal authorities to Vito Scavo, the former Melrose Park police chief now doing six years in prison after being convicted of muscling Melrose Park businesses into hiring DOD Security Consultants, a private security company Scavo ran on the side.

Neither Fruin nor his company was ever charged. According to Scavo’s 2007 indictment, DOD was an unlicensed company that worked as a subcontractor to Fruin’s business, which had become involved in billings between DOD and the Melrose Park businesses.

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