Monday, April 27, 2015 || Originally Published: Better Government Association (BGA) || By Robert Herguth
Melrose Park Police Detective Greg Salvi (pictured) was recently arrested by the FBI and charged with some pretty heavy drug trafficking offenses.
Click here, here and here for the official documents.
To put some of the more startling accusations in math terms, Salvi was engaged in subtraction – allegedly taking away (or plotting to take away) drugs that police held as evidence.
But his overall goal seemed to involve addition – adding money to his pocket by selling (or planning to sell) drugs in different schemes, federal records show.
There are things, though, that still don’t compute, including Salvi’s reasons for allegedly breaking bad.
Like, what was this guy thinking? Did he need the money – and, if so, why?
Melrose Park officials are bending over backwards to portray Salvi’s reputed misconduct as limited to just him, which very well may be true.
Nobody else from the police department has been charged with a crime or otherwise accused of wrongdoing in this instance. Melrose Park Mayor Ron Serpico (pictured below) said of Salvi, “All indications from the FBI is it’s isolated and just him.”
Even so, Melrose Park Police Chief Sam Pitassi said of this case, “It set our department back.”
The department’s image was never pristine, even before Pitassi’s predecessor, Vito Scavo, went off to prison in 2010 for corruption – forcing local businesses, including the amusement park Kiddieland, to hire his private security firm, which was staffed with on-duty cops.
The department has also taken somewhat of a beating since then; we’ve done a number of stories about the municipal government, including the police force and some of the curious behavior there.
Consider a story we did in 2012 about Deputy Melrose Park Police Chief Michael Castellan and his side business, which not only sold uniforms to his own department, but also sold his agency a slew of Motorola radios – though nobody could say where they came from originally.
Here’s what we wrote at the time:
So far as we can tell, there’s no warranty, no paperwork from the manufacturer, no indication of bidding—very little of anything in the village’s official record except a copy of a check and an invoice.
Which raises two points: Why did the village buy the radios? And where did they come from?
A village spokesman answered the first question by basically saying, Hey, we bought the radios from Castellan because it was good equipment at a good price.
But nobody seems to know where the radios originated.
A Motorola spokesman told the BGA via email that Shirt Stop [Castellan’s company] “is not an authorized Motorola dealer and is not licensed to sell Motorola Solutions radios.”
Fast forward to 2013 when we did another story about the police department – how a number of officers belonged to a motorcycle “club” that included members wearing patches showing support for the Outlaws, which the federal government has described as a criminal enterprise.
The story, done in conjunction with CBS2, “raises questions about whether police officers can function in such an environment and maintain their integrity and independence,” we wrote at the time.
Speaking of integrity, there’s a possibility Salvi’s arrest could undermine at least two drug cases, since he allegedly stole evidence relating to them, Pitassi said.
Too early to say for sure, but this could mean that criminal charges are dropped for certain drug defendants.
Salvi has pleaded not guilty to his own criminal charges. He has been held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in the South Loop.
So who is Salvi?
He has been on the force since 1997 and was making more than $80,000 a year. He’s married, has kids.
Serpico described Salvi as “a little bit of a hustler.”
Salvi had something to do with selling cars as a side job, Serpico said.
Someone else recalled Salvi hawking purses at the police station some years ago.
Then there was Salvi’s unsuccessful attempt to get disability pay for an injury he said he incurred at the murder scene where ex-Melrose Park police Sgt. Ron Susek was found dead in 2012.
Doubts were cast on Salvi’s version because other officers at the crime scene couldn’t recall Salvi getting hurt, and Salvi didn’t mention an injury until later, Pitassi said.
Salvi, as a detective, “never set the world on fire,” a police official told us.
But Salvi also wasn’t a huge problem. “Nobody’s ever filed a citizen complaint form,” Pitassi said.
Is Salvi now cooperating with the feds?
“He’s been focused on defending himself,” said his lawyer, Adam Sheppard.
The U.S. attorney’s office, which is prosecuting Salvi, had no comment on any of this.
Bottom-line: Aside from allegedly stealing and selling or planning to steal and sell drug evidence, Salvi is, among other things, accused of partaking in a five-kilo cocaine deal – though on that point Sheppard said, “He got set up by informants . . . which could have implications at trial or the sentencing hearing.”
Regardless, this case is having implications for the Melrose Park Police Department.
Pitassi said he’s instituting changes to better protect evidence being transported by his people. From now on, one detective isn’t allowed to pick up or drop off drugs at the lab. There must be two detectives accompanying drug evidence to prevent thefts or other problems.
Pitassi is also reassigning the employee overseeing the evidence room, but insists that person didn’t do anything wrong and still enjoys Pitassi’s confidence.
Salvi is being fired, officials said.
We have to ask: Where was the supervision of Salvi?
And he was a detective. What cases didn’t he work on or solve because he was too busy – on the clock for taxpayers – trying to allegedly make a bundle off bundles of drugs?
“We’re going over all the cases assigned to him,” Pitassi relayed.
Melrose Park is a tight-knit place and the department (with 75 sworn officers) even more so.
Salvi was part of a group of police employees that’d go to breakfast together in the mornings, we’re told.
For the foreseeable future, there’s going to be one less guy at the table. VFP
Robert Herguth can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (312) 821-9030.
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