Cook County State's Attorney Investigator at cigar shop - New York News

Cook County State's Attorney Investigator spends hours at cigar shop on government time

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FIRST ON FOX: Your tax dollars, up in smoke. 

An investigator with the Cook County State's Attorney's Office has stepped down after FOX Chicago News and the Better Government Association found him spending hours during his work day hanging out at a cigar shop.

That turned out to be just the tip of the problem.

When he was discovered smoking cigars in the middle of the work day, Cook County State's Attorney Investigator Bob Thomas said he was having lunch.

But for Thomas - lunch is rarely a one hour proposition.

He's already drawing a Chicago police pension and makes $78,000 a year to investigate cases for State's Attorney Anita Alvarez.

But with undercover cameras outside, and hidden cameras inside, we watched Thomas visit this Bridgeport cigar shop day after day.

He's a regular at the shop's old location, and its new one just down the street..

Some days for 90 minutes, others for more than two hours, Thomas can be seen smoking cigars, reading the paper, just hanging out with the other regulars.

Yet his timecards for the days we watched him say he was working for taxpayers between 10 a.m. and 6 p.m.

But nothing beats what we saw one Tuesday in March. Thomas showed up just after 12:30 p.m. in an M-plated county car.

It must have been a special day, because around 1 p.m. we notice he's holding what looks like a cake for his buddies.

Three hours later - around 4 p.m. - he walked back to his car, looking like he might finally be going back to work. Instead, Thomas made a run to a nearby Italian ice stand, and got refreshments for his friends.

At 4:30 p.m. he was back at the cigar store, and was still there when we left at 6 p.m. Thomas marked it as a sick day on his timesheet.

But Thomas was wearing his badge and driving his county car, which is only supposed to be used while working.

When asked to explain his actions, Thomas said he had nothing to say.

Karen Ficaro bought the store a few years ago. But the place has an interesting past.

Court documents show former FBI agents had it under surveillance in the late 1990s were hired to investigate mob influence in the Laborer's Union.

Alleged outfit leaders like Toots and Bruno Caruso met at the store, as well as Ronnie Jarrett, who was killed outside his Bridgeport home in an apparent gang hit.

Ficaro said the Caruso brothers still come into the stores to buy cigars.

"If alleged mobsters frequent a place like this, a law enforcement officer has no business being in here," the BGA's Andy Shaw said. "What about his supervisor?"

Well, his supervisor seemed to think Thomas was doing a great job. He gave Thomas a checkmark for "exceeding expectations" on how he used his time on last year's review.

His supervisor is Frank Cupello.

Cupello is the same guy FOX Chicago and the BGA found voting in Elmwood Park even though he lives 20 miles away in Lake County.

It's a story FOX Chicago News broke a few weeks ago, and he is now being investigated for possible voter fraud.

"Maybe it's time to look top to bottom at this office and see who is and isn't doing their job," Shaw said.

We showed our undercover video of Thomas wasting hours at the cigar store to Jack Garcia, the new man in charge of the state's attorney investigators.

Garcia said Thomas' conduct is unacceptable, and that the cops - as well as their bosses - need to be accountable to taxpayers.

"Everybody here has been put on notice that we will do what we're expected to do at all times," Garcia said.

Even though Thomas resigned, and is still eligible for a second pension, Garcia said he's moving forward with an Internal Affairs investigation of all that time in the cigar store.

This past Monday Thomas walked into his boss's office and handed in his resignation, along with his car keys and badge. 

By phone, Thomas told FOX Chicago News that he knows the Caruso brothers from the store, and would say hi. But he is not friends with the alleged mobsters. 

Bruno Caruso said he doesn't know Thomas, and hasn't smoked cigars in years. 

The new head of the state's attorney's investigators said he believes this is an isolated case. But sources in the office told FOX Chicago News that the 130-person unit has long been known as a place to coast, especially for those with clout.

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