George Pawlaczyk and Beth Hundsdorfer, News Democrat, January 11, 2014
When Randy “Rambo” McCallum won election as mayor of this impoverished community, he set out to systematically loot his town.
But the true extent of this plundering wasn’t revealed in the routine federal court documents filed after he got caught in 2012 and pleaded guilty, seven years after becoming mayor.
That changed last month when FBI affidavits for search warrants were made public through a new policy in federal court in East St. Louis.
The affidavits, based on undercover reports, agent surveillance and secret tapes, allow the public a chance to glimpse “the thug persona” of McCallum and other public officials caught in stings, said U.S. Attorney Stephen Wigginton, who supported making the documents public.
After he was released on bond pending sentencing on four federal felonies, McCallum wept during an apology to village board trustees.
But the affidavits show that confidential FBI informants, including a village cop, told agents that when it came to ripoffs, a greedy, profane McCallum considered nothing in Alorton to be off limits and ruled by threatening to fire anyone who didn’t go along.
“I run this mother (expletive),” he repeatedly told village officials and cops. A new hire at the police department was told his entire first paycheck must be given to the mayor.
According to the affidavits, McCallum:
* Skimmed off a hefty slice of numerous phony, tax-paid grants intended to improve residences and businesses and increase taxes, then looked the other way when the recipients spent the money on personal items including boat docking fees and paying off credit cards. These illegal payouts were so numerous that a local check cashing agency ran out of money cashing the checks.
* Directed police to bring any “motherload” of seized money and drugs directly to his house, a practice that doomed prosecutions because McCallum spent the cash and sold the drug evidence.
* Ordered competing drug dealers to be robbed, advising rookie village cops they were expected to pull their share of “licks,” or robberies and split the loot with him.
* Handpicked Michael Baxton Sr., now in federal prison, as his police chief. Baxton could advise McCallum of opportunities to loot seized drugs and cash because Baxton installed surveillance cameras throughout Village Hall and the police department, which he accessed from his home computer.
* Was so confident of his power that when an Alorton Police officer whom McCallum didn’t know was working undercover for the FBI was invited to McCallum’s home, the mayor didn’t bother to hide a dozen or so crack cocaine “rocks” on his kitchen table he was preparing for sale.
* Organized “stunt crews,” police teams instructed to shake down competing dealers and drive them out of town.
* Made sure that when his village’s cops arrested any of his relatives or friends, their cases disappeared and the offending cop was threatened with firing.
This behavior drew suspicious inquiries from outside Alorton.
The theft of drugs seized in legitimate Alorton arrests caused officials at the Illinois State Police Lab in Fairview Heights in 2011 to inquire why the crime-ridden village had stopped sending drugs for testing for more than a year.
A concerned outside auditor wrote a letter to the mayor in June 2011 asking why there had been no deposits in village bank accounts since June 2010.
“The accountants noted that it was impossible that the village didn’t occasionally come into cash receipts,” an affidavit stated.
McCallum is serving a 42-month sentence in federal prison for theft of government property, intent to distribute cocaine, attempting to smuggle contraband into a jail and lying to police. He is scheduled for release in January 2015.
Mayor Joann Reed, who is charged in county court with felony official misconduct, also could not be reached. She is alleged to have smuggled a cellphone and fried chicken into the cell of a female relative at the village police department on charges that she assaulted a pregnant woman.
In June 2011, McCallum summoned an Alorton cop he thought he could trust, who was secretly working for the FBI, and told him he was irked by a marijuana dealer nicknamed “The Wolf,” who was selling 20 pounds of the drug per week in Alorton. An affidavit states that McCallum told the officer to come in on overtime.
Later that night, McCallum, in a black SUV, had gathered three known drug dealers as helpers and told the undercover officer to proceed in an Alorton squad car and “make a traffic stop and take the marijuana from (“The Wolf”) and then give the drugs to the mayor.”
Undercover FBI and Illinois State Police agents tailed the SUV to make sure the caper didn’t get out of hand. But it ultimately did not come off when “The Wolf” couldn’t be found.
He was arrested by federal agents in February 2012.
[Editor’s Note: According to the 2010 Census, Alorton, IL, is 98 percent black.]