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Local

Sandwich mayor resigns in wake of prostitution sting

Olson, 8 others accused of soliciting sex by LaSalle County officials

SANDWICH – Sandwich Mayor Richard A. “Rick” Olson resigned Monday, days after police announced that he was charged with soliciting sex from a woman he thought was a prostitute.

City Clerk Denise Ii read Olson’s resignation letter at Monday’s meeting of the Sandwich City Council. In the letter dated Friday, Olson, 66, wrote that he was resigning with deep regret. He apologized for the shame he brought to the community and said he hoped that the city would continue to prosper.

“My hope and prayer are that, by my resignation, I will spare any additional dishonor to that office,” wrote Olson, who did not attend the meeting. “My goal now will be to seek the forgiveness of my family and move forward to reinstill the trust that I alone have broken.”

Olson was a longtime police officer, and was Sandwich’s police chief for
16 years. He was elected mayor in 2013 and was in his second term, which expires in 2021.

The mayor’s resignation was the most immediate fallout from a sting operation conducted by the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office that resulted in charges against nine men, including three people with high-profile positions. Also charged with soliciting a sexual act was James G. Schaefer, 53, of Peru, the vice president of operations and physician services at Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru. A third, Roger C. Bolin, 65, of Hennepin, is an attorney and Putnam County public defender.

The La Salle County Sheriff’s Office used a female informant posing as a prostitute named “Nicky” for most of the sting operation, court records show.

The men charged were not arrested immediately, so there are no police booking photos available. Investigators interviewed them afterward and then sent them on their way, according to a release from the La Salle County Sheriff’s Office. The men were mailed notices Friday to appear in court on solicitation of sex charges, according to documents.

None have entered a plea. Their first court appearance is set for May 31. Solicitation of a sexual act is punishable by probation or up to a year in jail, and a maximum fine of $2,500.

The encounters that led to most of the charges occurred March 14, in hotels in Ottawa and Peru.

The hotel operators cooperated with authorities, so police are not identifying the locations. One incident occurred April 4, court records show.

“Nicky” was involved in encounters that led to charges against eight of the nine people accused. A ninth man was charged through the work of agent Sherry Barto, according to court documents.

Websites were used to set up meetings at the hotels. Police refused to say which websites were used.

Sandwich 1st Ward Alderman Rich Robinson said the City Council plans to hold a special meeting to discuss potential mayoral appointees in closed session, and then will take public action afterward in a meeting next week.

“And then we would start the meeting with that person then being appointed as mayor,” Robinson said.

It was not clear Monday what further ramifications the charges might have for others who are charged.

A spokeswoman for Illinois Valley Community Hospital declined to comment Monday regarding the solicitation charge against Schaefer, nor would she say whether he still was employed at the hospital, citing a policy not to comment on personnel matters.

In addition to a soliciting charge, Bolin, a Putnam County public defender, also was charged with battery. Police said in court records that he grabbed Nicky’s shoulder and tried to pull her toward him.

Bolin also is said to have made phone calls with Nicky to discuss rates for various sexual acts, according to court records.

According to the Better Government Association, Bolin made $29,547 in his public role in 2017.

He is a partner in the Hennepin law firm of Boyle & Bolin. His office was contacted Monday, but made no statement concerning the charges.

The Illinois Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission is the governing body overseeing Illinois attorneys. According to the commission’s office, Bolin is currently in good standing with no complaints against him.

If a complaint were filed, Bolin’s conduct would be reviewed, and he could face discipline including censure, probation, suspension or disbarment.

Others charged with solicitation of a sexual act in the operation were: Raul Barajas, 40, Peru; Dustin A. Meredith, 29, Streator; Joseph P. Hanley, 57, Earlville; Wiley M. Sawyer, 18, Waterman; Richard Peradotti, 55, Peru; and Alphonso T. Thompson, 33, Streator.

• Shaw Media reporter Dave Cook contributed to this story.

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