Detective Joe Willard of the Huntley Police Department has been named McHenry County’s Officer of the Year for his work on an alleged insurance scam and recovering a gun that had been sold to a gang member.
In the first case, Willard spent months reviewing computer records and several file cabinets full of documents.
He determined a local insurance agent, Russell Palermo, had been taking payments from customers but not actually writing policies, Huntley Police Chief John Perkins said.
As a result, the victims believed they had insurance but actually were not covered.
More than 30 felony charges and multiple misdemeanor counts are pending against Palermo.
“Detective Joe Willard’s ability to give maximum effort to every detail of this complex case prevented many of our citizens from suffering serious financial problems,” Perkins said. “Even though they were scammed out of insurance premiums, the situations could have been much worse if there was an incident requiring an insurance claim.”
The second case for which Willard was recognized involved a residential burglary during which cash and a .38-caliber revolver had been stolen from a home.
Willard developed information that the gun had been sold to a gang member from Elgin. He worked with detectives from the Elgin Police Department to locate the alleged gang member and confiscate the gun, all within 48 hours of the original report. Four people were charged in that case.
Willard was given the second annual award from the McHenry County Chiefs of Police Association over the weekend at the Bull Valley Country Club.
The other nominees were officer Amy Bucci, Algonquin police; officers Kathy Eiring and Jason Williamson, Cary police; officer Jason Draftz, Lake in the Hills police; Detectives Craig Esperance and Jennifer Garafol, McHenry County Sheriff’s Office; and Detective George Kopulos, Woodstock police.
Last year, the award went to Woodstock police officer Adam Schraw, who saved a 9-month-old’s life by clearing a hair clip that was obstructing the baby’s airway.