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Local News

Update: Sandwich Mayor to resign in wake of prostitution sting

Informant worked with LaSalle County deputies in operation; charged include public defender, hospital executive

OTTAWA – The La Salle County Sheriff's office used a female informant posing as a prostitute named "Nicky" in a sting operation that led to charges against nine men, some of them high-profile community members, court records show.

Those who have been issued notices to appear in court on charges of solicitation of a sex act include the mayor of Sandwich, a Putnam County public defender and a Peru hospital administrator.

The men charged were not arrested immediately during the operation, so there are no police booking photos available. Investigators interviewed the men afterward and then sent them on their way, according to a press release issued by the La Salle County Sheriff's Office. The nine men on Friday were mailed notices to appear in court on solicitation of sex charges, according to documents. None have entered a plea. They are to appear for a first court appearance on May 31.

Solicitation of a sexual act is punishable by probation or up to a year in jail, and a maximum fine of $2,500.

According to court documents, Sandwich Mayor Richard A. "Rick" Olson, 66, was among those accused of offering money to a woman who went by "Nicky" on March 14 in exchange for sex.

James G. Schaefer, 53, of Peru, also is charged with solicitation, police said. He is the vice president of operations and physician services at Illinois Valley Community Hospital.

The encounters that led to most of the charges occurred on March 14, in Ottawa and Peru hotels. The hotel operators cooperated with authorities, so those locations were not being released by police. Putnam County public defender Roger C. Bolin, 65, of Hennepin, was charged in connection with an incident that occurred on April 4.

"Nicky" was involved in encounters that led to charges against eight of the nine people accused. A ninth man was charged through the work of agent Sherry Barto, according to court documents.

Websites were used to set up meetings at the hotels. Police declined to say what websites were used.

In addition to a soliciting charge, Bolin, 65, of Hennepin, also was charged with battery. Police say in court records that Bolin grabbed Nicky's shoulder and tried to pull her toward him, according to court documents.

Bolin also is said to have made phone calls with Nicky to discuss rates for various sexual acts, records show.

Others charged with solicitation of a sexual act in the operation include: Raul Barajas, 40, Peru; Dustin A. Meredith, 29, Streator; Joseph P. Hanley, 57, Earlville; Wiley M. Sawyer, 18, Waterman; Richard Peradotti, 55, Peru; Alphonso T. Thompson, 33, Streator.

Mayor to resign, other fallout from charges

Sandwich officials on Monday confirmed Olson, who was the city's police chief for 16 years before becoming mayor in 2013, plans to resign. He is two years into his second term as mayor, which expires in 2021.

Sandwich City Clerk Denise Ii said her office had received a resignation letter from Olson.

“However, it is not compliant in that it is not notarized,” Ii said.

Ii said that if the clerk's office receives a notarized letter in time, it will be read at the Sandwich City Council meeting at 7 p.m. Monday.

Kevin Kelleher, Ward 2 alderman for Sandwich, said he wasn't sure whether Olson has officially resigned.

"I know he said he's going to," Kelleher said. Kelleher declined to comment about his personal reaction on the matter.

Olson did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Monday.

Ward 1 Alderman Les Redden said had spoken to Olson in the wake of the news, though he declined to say what they had talked about. He said he expects the matter will be addressed at the Sandwich City Council meeting tonight.

"It's kind of the elephant in the room," Redden said.

Redden said the City Council doesn't officially have an appointed mayor pro tem listed, nor does the city have a vice mayor.

He said he recalls Olson being absent from council meetings only twice, with Alderman Rich Robinson usually acting in that role whenever Olson was gone. "We've done it on an individual basis," Redden said.

Robinson could not be reached for comment.

Bolin, a Putnam County public defender, is a partner in the Hennepin law firm of Boyle & Bolin. According to the Better Government Association, Bolin made $29,547 in his public role in 2017.

Bolin's office was contacted Monday but had made no statement as of Monday afternoon concerning the charges.

The Attorney Registration & Disciplinary Commission of the Supreme Court of Illinois is the governing body overseeing Illinois' attorneys. According to the commission's office, Bolin is currently in good standing with no complaints against him.

If a complaint were filed, Bolin's conduct would be reviewed, and he could face discipline including censure, probation, suspension or disbarment.

A spokeswoman for Illinois Valley Community Hospital declined to comment Monday regarding the solicitation charge against Schaefer, or say whether Schaefer still is employed at the hospital, citing a policy not to comment on personnel matters.

• Shaw Media news reporters Katie Finlon out of Record Newspapers and Dave Cook out of the Bureau County Republican contributed to this story.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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