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Officer Down

Friday, July 17, 2009

MELROSE TRIALS: Convicted felon worked security at college, bank

July 17, 2009

A convicted felon is prohibited from working as security guard, unless the man hiring is the police chief of Melrose Park.

During Thursday's federal corruption trial of former police supervisor Michael "Mickey" Caliendo, prosecutors showed how Caliendo skirted legal requirements for security guards so he could work for Vito Scavo, then-police chief who ran security firms from his office at the police station.

Caliendo was convicted of mail fraud in 1980s for falsifying accident reports. But he obtained two Permanent Employee Registration Cards, also known as PERC cards, that expired in May 2003 and May 2006.

PERC cards are issued by the Illinois Department of Financial and Profession Regulation, and applicants must be fingerprinted and have a clean criminal background in order to obtain one.

At Thursday's trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Halley Guren showed on a big projector screen how Caliendo obtained the card. On his application for a PERC card, Caliendo did not fill in blanks for the questions asking to disclose any criminal background or if the applicant has ever been convicted of a felony.

Similarly, in his application to work for IFPC Worldwide Inc., the security firm that worked with Scavo, Caliendo left blank the area for criminal background.

The application fee for the PERC card was paid for by IFPC Worldwide Inc.

The prosecution then turned the focus to Lincoln College of Technology in Melrose Park, formerly Lincoln Technical Institute, where Caliendo worked security.

James Clark, education program supervisor at the school, testified that IFPC provided security from 2001 to 2005. Because the two-way radios were housed in his office, security guards had to stop in his office on a daily basis to drop off and recharge their radios.

For the first six months Caliendo worked security there in the morning, Clark said.

Caliendo wore a white shirt as part of his uniform, Clark said. A white shirt signifies high rank in the police department, but Caliendo had no rank. He was civilian.

Caliendo also drove a marked Melrose Park police car to the school.

After the Melrose Park Police Department was raided in 2005, the security officers changed their uniforms to a black polo shirt with a shield emblem on the front and the word "POLICE" on the back of the shirt, Clark said. Later the name "Melrose Park" was removed from the cars the security guards used.

Bruno Costa, executive vice president and chief of operations and technology at Midwest Bank and Trust Company in Melrose Park, also hired IFPC to provide security. Caliendo worked there as well.

Costa said he didn't know about Caliendo's felony background and the bank does not hire felons to work security. He also confirmed that Caliendo wore a white shirt that signified rank in the police department.

Caliendo worked security at the bank for about five hours over two days each week.

Costa did say that on occasion monthly work schedules that were posted at the guard's desk did come up missing and in 2004 there were no work schedules posted at all.

Despite no change in his pay or the hours worked, Caliendo's income increased, according to his W-2 forms starting in 2002.

Caliendo's attorney, Arthur Engelland, said he plans to put his client on the stand to testify on his own behalf next week.

He believes the government is reaching in their effort to convict his client.

"He didn't do anything wrong," he said. "So he went to the boat a few times. It's no big deal."

Engelland believes his client worked, did his job, maybe not to everyone's liking, but did nothing of such magnitude that deserves felony charges. "Is the government a chaperon for work ethics?" he said.

Caliendo faces one count of conspiracy and seven counts of mail fraud. His trial continues Monday.