The wife of fugitive Eddie Hicks took the Fifth Amendment at a police pension board hearing Tuesday, refusing to answer trustees' questions about the whereabouts of the former Chicago police officer.
Hicks fled the country — presumably to Brazil — on the eve of his federal corruption trial in 2003, but since then, monthly pension checks totaling more than $300,000 have been paid to his bank account or cashed by his wife, a Chicago Tribune investigation found.
The pension board suspended Hicks' more than $3,000-a-month pension in September after Tribune reporters raised questions about the payments. But Hicks' wife, Carol Hicks-Pierce, contested the suspension, producing a power of attorney document, which she said was signed by Hicks last year, that granted her control over all his finances. Based on that document, she appeared at Tuesday's hearing in an effort to reinstate the pension payments.
Her effort failed. At the start of the hearing, pension board trustee and city Treasurer Stephanie Neely asked Hicks-Pierce point-blank, "Where is Mr. Hicks?"
Hicks-Pierce's attorney, Phillip Oliver, refused to let her answer that question or any others, citing a federal investigation of Hicks and her constitutional right not to incriminate herself.
Pointing out that pension payments are meant for officers who uphold their duty, trustee Lois Scott, Chicago's chief financial officer, told Hicks-Pierce that the board had difficulty making payments to "a gentleman that appears to be a fugitive from the law."
With that, the eight-member board unanimously reaffirmed the suspension of Hicks' pension payments, saying he would have to prove he was alive in person before they would consider reinstating the payments.
In an interview after the hearing, board trustee Michael Shields, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Chicago Lodge 7, said Hicks had disgraced the Chicago police force and shouldn't have received a pension after becoming a fugitive.
"Something like this is definitely a slap in the face to all of the hard-working officers who put their lives on the line on a daily basis to earn a patrolman's benefits," Shields said.
A 29-year veteran of the Chicago police force, Hicks was charged in federal court with running a crew of rogue officers who robbed drug dealers, pocketed the illicit cash and sold the stolen drugs to other pushers.
While on the lam, Hicks repeatedly conducted financial transactions in Chicago to enrich himself and the people closest to him, the Tribune investigation found.
Two years after Hicks vanished, his signature appeared on land records giving his son — a Chicago police officer — the South Side property Hicks had used to secure his $150,000 bond.
Hicks' signature appeared on paperwork directing the police pension fund to deposit benefit checks totaling more than $300,000 into a credit union account, and on at least 23 monthly police pension checks totaling $79,000, most of which were cashed or deposited by his wife, records show.
Hicks married Hicks-Pierce, a former Chicago officer, six days before he disappeared in 2003, government records show. She declined to comment after the hearing.