Arlington Heights' only police officer investigating financial crimes has been named the 2012 officer of the year.
"I was speechless," said Todd Radek, 42, who received 25 nominations from colleagues. "It was very heartwarming."
In his 19 years with the department, Radek has served as a patrol officer, crisis intervention team member, criminal investigator and instructor for the Arlington Heights Police Department's Citizen Police Academy. For the last five years, he has served as the sole financial crimes investigator.
The L.W. Calderwood Officer of the Year award recognizes outstanding officers for significant contributions toward the overall betterment of the community. It was named for former Arlington Heights Police Chief Bill Calderwood and is sponsored by the Arlington Heights Rotary Club.
Radek said he will donate the $500 prize to the Wounded Warriors Project, which supports veterans with post-traumatic stress syndrome and other maladies or injuries.
"I knew since I was 6 years old I was going to be in the military" and a police officer, said Radek, who graduated from Fenton High School in Bensenville and enlisted at age 17 in the U.S. Army military police. He served in Germany, Kansas and Honduras until 1992. He came from a family of military veterans, with a father and uncle in the U.S. Navy, and he grew up watching World War II films.
He joined the Arlington Heights police department in 1993 when he returned from active duty. He now investigates cases of identity theft, tax fraud, credit card fraud, check fraud and bank fraud for residents and businesses.
"All the financial crimes are exploding," he said. "They're harder to prove and harder to prosecute."
But he has his share of success stories, including a case now in court involving a 40-year-old man who allegedly befriended a 60-year-old female resident and then stole her identity and drained her bank accounts of $40,000. Radek spent months tracking her bank account and credit card transactions before making an arrest.
Other recent financial crimes he's seen include foreign lottery scams demanding fees and wire transfers to con artists who buy retirement community call lists then call the elderly claiming to be a grandson in jail in Canada needing money.
His work with elderly victims was why colleague Kristin Eby, civilian victim services coordinator, initiated the award petition.
"I felt like he was the most deserving," said Eby, who often works with Radek to assist disabled or elderly victims of crime. "He puts in all this time and effort, paper trails, it's a very thankless job. Todd wants to do his work well, defend and support these victims the way they should be. He has a really great and strong work ethic and it's appreciated."
In his spare time, Radek likes bow hunting in Wisconsin, creating a 125-gallon saltwater fish tank, gardening and traveling with Jennifer, his wife of 12 years.