Convicted in a racketeering and extortion scheme in 2009 and sent to prison, former Melrose Park police Chief Vito Scavo has run afoul of the law again — this time because of, well, fowl.
And he could end up being sent back to prison as a result.
As a convicted felon in Illinois, the law says Scavo can’t own a gun or even hold one.
But now Scavo, 70, is facing felony charges that include unlawful possession of a weapon by a felon and possession of a weapon without a firearm owner’s identification card, according to Kendall County State’s Attorney Eric Weis.
If convicted of unlawful possession of a weapon, Scavo would face an automatic prison term of at least two years, Weis says.
The trouble for Scavo, who’s due in court next month, stems from his arrest after the former west suburban police chief, armed with a shotgun, blasted away at geese and possibly other birds during a hunting trip last November in Kendall County with friends who included off-duty suburban cops, according to police records and interviews.
Scavo eventually came clean he’d been hunting when questioned by an Illinois conservation police officer who’d been watching him, records show.
“I asked him if he had taken any shots this morning,” the conservation officer wrote in a police report. “He stated that he had shot at one [bird] that was on the water. I then advised him that he should know that I had been watching the group for over an hour and a half. I asked him if that was all he shot at, and he said that it was.
“I again advised him how long I had been watching him and told him that I had observed him shoot at several groups of birds that came in,” the officer wrote. “He then admitted that he had taken more than just that one shot.
“I then asked him if this was the only time this year that he had taken shots at waterfowl and he said that it was not. I then told him that I knew his situation and knew that he could not legally be in possession of a firearm. I asked him why he would do this knowing that he couldn’t legally do it. He said that hunting is in his blood and he just can’t seem to get away from it.
“He then spent the next 15 minutes or so trying to convince me not to do anything with the information that I had gathered this morning. I told him several times that I was not going to risk my career and my family’s well-being because he had made bad choices.”
Nearly a decade ago when he was on trial on federal charges accusing him of muscling local businesses to hire his private security firms and using on-duty Melrose Park cops to do security work, Scavo proclaimed his innocence despite overwhelming evidence against him and ended up being sentenced in 2010 to six years in prison. He was released from custody in 2014.
The hunting arrest came after the conservation cop “received information” Nov. 16 about a “group of waterfowl hunters that hunt at the Fox Stone Quarry,” according to records that show the tip included information one of them “was suspected to be Vito R. Scavo and he was a felon and not able to possess a firearm.”
Four days later, the officer spotted them at the quarry and “walked/crawled to a location on the north side of the body of water where I could see their spread of decoys and the boat from which they were hunting,” the officer wrote.
Watching through binoculars, the officer reported: “One time in particular I can remember when a flock of geese flew over the top of the hunters and Scavo was holding the gun almost straight up and took a shot.”
The group fired “at least five or six times, and every time I could see Scavo holding a shotgun,” the conservation officer wrote.
He said that when he confronted Scavo, dead birds were in the boat his group was using.
Other records show it was a Melrose Park police official who tipped off the conservation cops about Scavo and the others, though a Melrose Park police spokesman says no one did so in an official capacity.
Reached at the Italian restaurant he and his wife operate in Elmwood Park, Scavo declined to comment.
Scavo and his wife filed for bankruptcy earlier this year, listing debts including $70,000 owed to the IRS. Asked on the bankruptcy paperwork whether he owns any weapons, Scavo checked “no.”
One of his hunting pals told the conservation police that Scavo was using one of his guns, according to records that also show Scavo had a hunting license with him.