From: Chicago Tribune
Sheriff’s officer took money to protect illegal cigarette operation
By Jason Meisner, Chicago Tribune reporter
Cigarette smuggler Mustafa Mohd Shaikh was caught in June 2011 on an undercover recording describing how having the protection of a longtime sheriff’s investigator meant his enterprise could operate with impunity.
“Anything happens to you in Chicago, this guy will get you out,” Shaikh was quoted in court records as telling an informant. “This guy is willing to protect. Nobody will touch you or come by you.”
The “guy” he was talking about was Lawrence A. Draus, a 35-year veteran of the Cook County Sheriff’s Department who extorted thousands of dollars in cash payouts to safeguard the cigarette smuggling operation, but to Draus’ surprise the entire setup turned out to be an elaborate government sting.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge John Tharp sentenced Draus to 2½ years in prison for his role in the scheme, saying corrupt police officers are particularly dangerous because they weaken the public’s trust in the criminal justice system.
Draus, 64, choked up as he described how his late father — a Chicago police officer for more than three decades — passed along some sage advice when Draus became a sheriff’s deputy — “Never lose your compassion, be fair and honest, and be careful who you trust.”
Draus, who was stripped of his police powers before retiring earlier this year while under indictment, paused to wipe away tears before apologizing for the “disgrace” he’d brought to his family and “all the honest police officers out there.”
Tharp noted that Draus had won numerous commendations during his years on the force, mostly for his work investigating crimes against animals.
“It is an extraordinary tragedy that rather than celebrating a retirement we are here at a sentencing hearing marking a very inglorious end to that career,” Tharp said.
Draus and his son, Lawrence “Eric,” were arrested in an investigation by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives that eventually snared more than a dozen defendants. Hidden cameras at a Hickory Hills warehouse allegedly captured the co-conspirators using cash, firearms and narcotics to buy a combined $20 million of illegal cigarettes without Cook County or state taxes, authorities said.
According to court records, Eric Draus threatened others that if they didn’t pay up, the warehouse would be busted by the sheriff’s vice police headed by his dad.
“They can (expletive) bury you,” he allegedly told one informant in a 2011 meeting at a Dunkin’ Donuts, according to court records.
At a January 2012 meeting at a restaurant, the same informant wrapped $10,000 in cash in a newspaper and handed it to Draus literally under the table, then told Draus he wanted to “scare off” a person who was a threat to the operation.