Web Extra! Updated 07/29/08

Chicago police officer Michael Ciancio, who was arraigned Wednesday morning on a previously sealed three-count federal indictment for alleged extortion, is a well known figure in River Forest girls basketball circles.

Ciancio runs The Raiders grade school teams and is assistant athletic director at Trinity High School. He was planning to start a 10-weekend grade school girls camp Aug. 3 at Trinity.

Early Wednesday, federal agents arrested Ciancio at his home. He was arraigned that afternoon and released on a $5,000 personal recognizance bond. Thursday, he answered an e-mail request for information on his coaching and administrative status, saying, “I’ll let you know as soon as I hear something.”

Trinity President Sister Michelle Germanson said Wednesday she had no comment on Ciancio’s legal situation, but expressed sadness at the news.

“I can tell you he’s an absolutely great guy,” she said. “I feel like I want to go into our chapel and cry.”

Ciancio, 56, has taken the head coaching reins for Trinity’s varsity basketball team on two occasions.

In January, 2006, Ciancio, at the time an assistant coach of the junior varsity, again took over as varsity head coach after Don Sansone was fired by the school. Ciancio coached the Blazers to an Elite Eight berth and a 23-7 record, including a dramatic 51-50 win over their arch-rival Fenwick Friars.

According to a 19-page criminal complaint filed in federal court Wednesday, Ciancio, a 21-year police veteran who lives in Chicago’s Galewood neighborhood, is the second Chicago police officer to be caught up in a 16-month investigation by the FBI, Chicago Police Dept. and the Internal Revenue Service. He’s charged with soliciting bribes of between $600 and $800 per week over a two-year period from a towtruck driver in return for allowing that driver to tow cars involved in traffic accidents.

The towtruck driver was a cooperating witness in the federal investigation and secretly taped phone conversations with Ciancio. During one such phone conversation, Ciancio reportedly agreed to meet the driver on his way home in the Walgreens parking lot at Oak Park and Belmont avenues. “Beautiful,” Ciancio reportedly said after allegedly being handed $600 cash. At that point, the informant said, “Let’s get out of here. There’s too many eyeballs.”

In another phone call between the two in October, 2007, Ciancio, reportedly concerned he hadn’t received a weekly payment, said, “I didn’t hear from you. I say, what the f*** happened, you know? I thought it was like, Christmas and I looked under the tree, there was no gift, know what I mean?”

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