By Suzannah Gonzales
CHICAGO (Reuters) - The northern Illinois policeman whose September death prompted an extensive manhunt for murder suspects committed "a carefully staged suicide" as authorities began an audit that would have exposed his embezzling public funds, authorities said on Wednesday.
Fox Lake Police Lieutenant Charles Joseph Gliniewicz used public funds for personal purchases, stealing and laundering money over the past seven years, and forging signatures on documents, Lake County Major Crime Task Force Commander George Filenko said.
The investigation "strongly indicates criminal activity on the part of at least two other individuals," Filenko said, adding that because the investigation was ongoing he would not comment further.
Gliniewicz, 52, misused thousands of dollars to pay for personal travel, adult websites, mortgage payments, gym memberships, personal loans and also made cash withdrawals, Filenko said.
Gliniewicz stole at least some of the money from Police Explorers, a youth training program he helped run, Filenko said.
"There are no winners here," he said. "Gliniewicz committed the ultimate betrayal to the citizens he served and the entire law enforcement community.
"The facts of his actions prove he behaved for years in a manner completely contrary to the image he portrayed," Filenko added.
More than 150 local and federal investigators analyzed over 250 pieces of evidence, and reviewed thousands of pages of financial documents, more than 6,500 pages of text messages from Gliniewicz's personal and work cell phones, and over 40,000 emails, Lake County Sheriff's Detective Christopher Covelli said.
"This extensive investigation has concluded with an overwhelming amount of evidence that Gliniewicz's death was a carefully staged suicide," Filenko said.
Gliniewicz was concerned after the village of Fox Lake began an internal audit of inventory that would have led to the discovery of financial malfeasance, Filenko said.
Gliniewicz, who was experienced in setting up mock crime scenes, left a staged trail of police equipment, including pepper spray, a baton and his glasses, to mislead investigators and emergency workers into believing there had been a homicide, Filenko said.
There were no signs that Gliniewicz had fought for his life.
Ballistics testing found two gunshots were fired at close range, Filenko said. Gliniewicz aimed the first shot strategically toward his bullet proof vest and the second underneath the vest, Filenko said.
Gliniewicz was found wounded on Sept. 1 after reporting that he was pursuing three suspects on foot. He later died. One month later, Filenko said the officer's death was a homicide investigation but that suicide had not been ruled out.
The shooting drew hundreds of local, state and federal officers to search around Fox Lake, about 60 miles (100 km) north of Chicago and near the Wisconsin border. The Federal Aviation Administration ordered a no-fly zone over the search area.
Hundreds of mourners packed Gliniewicz's September funeral. Gliniewicz, known as "G.I. Joe," had been described as a hero and decorated 30-year veteran of the Fox Lake Police Department, and Illinois state lawmakers honored him with resolutions including one that said he was killed in the line of duty.
(Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee, Wis.; Dave McKinney in Chicago; Writing by Suzannah Gonzales; Editing by Jeffrey Benkoe and Matthew Lewis)