A former Crystal Lake police officer pleaded guilty last week to fraudulently receiving almost $95,000 in salary and insurance benefits through a false line-of-duty injury claim, according to McHenry County court records and Crystal Lake police.
Victor Robelet, 45, formerly of Huntley, entered into a negotiated plea of guilty to one count of Illinois Workers Compensation Act fraud, a Class 2 felony.
In exchange for his guilty plea, 14 other charges were dismissed, including nine additional counts of Illinois Workers Compensation Act fraud, theft by deception, state benefits fraud and forgery, according to court records.
Robelet’s attorneys declined to comment.
McHenry County Judge Michael Coppedge sentenced Robelet to two years of supervision and ordered that he pay restitution of about $21,600 to the city of Crystal Lake and nearly $73,000 to the Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency. Including restitution, fines and fees, Robelet must pay a total of just more than $98,000, according to the sentencing orders.
The criminal charges, filed in 2017 by the Illinois Department of Insurance, stem from an incident on Aug. 19, 2014, when Robelet was on duty and a vehicle hit his squad car from behind while he was stopped at the intersection of McHenry Avenue and Route 14.
The collision, which resulted in “minor” damages to both vehicles, was captured on video by a squad car camera. The vehicle that hit the back of Robelet’s squad car was traveling about 10 miles an hour. But, Crystal Lake Deputy Police Chief Tom Kotlowski said, Robelet told doctors he was hit by a car traveling 30 or 40 miles an hour.
Robelet, who was hired by the department in 2000, was examined at the scene by first responders and declined to be taken to a hospital, according to Kotlowski and court records. He drove his squad back to the police department, there were no damages requiring repair and the vehicle stayed in service.
Supervisors sent Robelet to a doctor for “precautionary reasons,” and he was subsequently given “full clearance” to return to duty, Kotlowski said.
Initially, Robelet returned to work initially, working regular duty as well as overtime for about nine weeks, according to court records filed by prosecutors.
In the following weeks, Robelet started complaining that his neck was still bothering him, had trouble sleeping and had had a concussion, and without knowledge of the police department, he saw another doctor. He told his peers and supervisors the doctor said he had a tear in his shoulder and he could not work, not even light duty, Kotlowski said.
However, through an internal investigation, Robelet was seen lifting cases of water, lifting children, power washing his house and performing other physical tasks not consistent with his reported injuries, according to court records and Kotlowski. He also was seen driving despite telling the department he was afraid to drive a vehicle.
Four doctors are named in the criminal indictment as doctors Robelet visited during the next few months and told of his alleged false injuries.
During those months in 2014 and 2015, Robelet continued to be paid his full salary of just more than $90,600 and collect full insurance benefits while being treated by various doctors, physical therapists, and taking prescribed medications all covered by the Intergovernmental Risk Management Agency, according to the indictment and Kotlowski.
When the investigation was complete, Robelet “admitted to what he was doing and saying,” Kotlowski said. His police authority was stripped and he was placed on administrative leave and later fired.
Kotlowski said the crimes Robelet committed were disappointing, but the department did not look the other way.
It pursued its investigation and saw to it that he was prosecuted, and the city, taxpayers and the insurance agency get back the money he fraudulently claimed, he said. Robelet will never be able to work as a police officer again and will not receive a pension from Crystal Lake, he said.
“Robelet violated the trust of the department and the community by his actions and these illegal acts are not tolerated by the city of Crystal Lake,” Crystal Lake Police Chief James Black said. “The police department terminated the employment of a bad police officer, and this incident should not define the men and women that continue to serve our community selflessly every day.”
This isn’t the first time a Crystal Lake police officer was convicted of workers compensation fraud. In 2014, former Crystal Lake Police Officer Michael Avila also was accused of falsely claiming work-related injuries and was sentenced to probation and required to pay back about $9,600 in restitution, according to court records.