While investigating a complaint that one of its deputies had stolen property during an eviction, Cook County sheriff's investigators took a look at older complaints to see if they could find a pattern.
It turned out one deputy had been assigned to each eviction in which property had reportedly disappeared.
On Tuesday the FBI arrested Cook County sheriff's Deputy Samuel J. Spino just days after authorities say he was captured on a hidden video camera allegedly stealing $1,100 in cash from a South Side home during an eviction.
The 10-year veteran was snared as part of an FBI sting operation that the sheriff's office assisted in. The owner of the South Side residence allowed the FBI to install the cameras, authorities said.
According to a criminal complaint unsealed Tuesday in federal court, Spino and three other deputies had gone to the home Thursday to evict the tenants.
The cameras showed Spino appeared to notice the cash, rolled and rubber-banded in a glass on the shelf of a microwave cart, when the four entered the kitchen. After the others left the kitchen, Spino turned off the light, reached toward the cart, picked up the glass containing the cash and reached into the glass before moving out of view of the camera, authorities said.
In the next instant, he came back into view and appeared to place an object in his cargo pants pocket as he left the kitchen, according to the complaint. The money had been planted there by the FBI.
Sheriff Tom Dart said Spino has been stripped of his badge and weapon.
"I take very seriously any situation which threatens to compromise the integrity of our operations," Dart said in a statement.
The sheriff's office had received complaints about the thefts of a video game system, a video camera, cash and a $5,000 watch during recent evictions.
Sheriff's investigators zeroed in on Spino after checking the rosters of teams doing the evictions and found that he was the only "common denominator," said Frank Bilecki, a sheriff's spokesman.
"They rotate teams," he said. "So no one team is kept together. It wasn't hard to see who the common denominator was."
Spino has worked in the sheriff's evictions unit for the last six years, the office said. He previously worked in the courts services division.
Spino, 35, of Willowbrook, was released Tuesday on his own recognizance after an initial appearance in federal court.