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Crime & Courts

Breaking: Sandwich mayor among those charged in prostitution sting

OTTAWA – Nine men, including the mayor of Sandwich, a Putnam County attorney and a Peru hospital executive, were charged after an investigation into prostitution in La Salle County.

Mayor Richard A. Olson, 66, Sandwich, was one of the nine charged with solicitation of a sexual act in connection with a March 14 incident, according to court records. The date of birth given for Olson matches that on his Facebook page. His address was not provided in court documents.

Olson moved to Sandwich in 1994 and was the city's police chief for 16 years before retiring. He defeated longtime incumbent Tom Thomas in 2013 and was re-elected in 2017. His term expires in 2021.

He didn't respond to phone messages on Friday.

Along with Olson, Wiley M. Sawyer, 18, Waterman; Raul Barajas, 40, Peru; Dustin A. Meredith, 29, Streator; Joseph P. Hanley, 57, Earlville; ; James G. Schaefer, 53, Peru; Richard Peradotti, 55, Peru; Alphonso T. Thompson, 33, Streator; and Roger C. Bolin, 64, Buda, were charged with solicitation of a sexual act.

Bolin also was charged with attempted solicitation of a sexual act and battery, stemming from an April 4 incident, according to court documents.

Bolin is a public defender in Putnam County. Schaefer is the vice president of operations and physician services at Illinois Valley Community Hospital in Peru.

Documents for criminal charges were not filed with the La Salle County Circuit Clerk as of Friday afternoon. Docket entries were the only information provided.

According to a press release issued by La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton, the investigation was conducted on three separate dates, beginning in December 2016.

The second portion of the investigation took place March 14, and April 4, in Ottawa and Peru. This portion targeted people soliciting the sexual acts, also called "johns." The subjects were interviewed and released on these dates.

As a result of this investigation, eight people were charged with solicitation of a sexual act (a Class A misdemeanor) and one person with solicitation of a sexual act, attempted soclitation of a sexual act and battery.

The La Salle County Sheriff's Officea and Tri-DENT Drug Task Force worked together with Ottawa and Peru police departments.

The investigation was initiated after complaints from La Salle County residents regarding prostitution, according to La Salle County Sheriff Tom Templeton in a press statement.

"This investigation was aimed at deterring both parties involved in prostitution and highlight the dangers prostitutes and 'johns' face when they engage in such activity. This undercover investigation focused on the link between prostitution and the use of illegal drugs in this area and the crimes that are directly related to it, such as robbery, battery, homicide, etc."

The sheriff's press release said agents spoke with several self-admitted drug-addicted women during recent drug investigations and learned the Illinois Valley's problem with prostitution is closely tied to the growing drug addiction crisis.

"Some of the females in the Illinois Valley are not working in the sex trade by choice, but rather because they struggle with substance abuse and addiction and are attempting to fuel a devastating drug habit," the sheriff's statement said. "Many of these women are stuck in a cycle of drug addiction that is an ongoing cris in our community. Our goal is to improve the safety and quality of life in our community and hopefully deter people from engaging in this type of activity and push them to get help for their addictions."

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