River Forest police arrest man for multiple-home burglary scheme

Leo Ely, 44, of Hickory Hills. Ely was recently arrested by River Forest police for his role in a series of “ruse” burglary schemes targeting elderly homeowners. | Courtesy of River Forest Police Department
Leo Ely, 44, of Hickory Hills. Ely was recently arrested by River Forest police for his role in a series of “ruse” burglary schemes targeting elderly homeowners. | Courtesy of River Forest Police Department

River Forest police and state officials have arrested a southwest suburban man for multiple home burglaries that targeted elderly victims.

On July 11, officials from the River Forest Police Department announced that they had recently apprehended Leo Ely, 44, of the 8200 block of W. 87th Place in Hickory Hills, who had been wanted for his role in a “ruse entry” burglary that occurred on April 14.

According to police, Ely knocked at the front door of the residence of an 86-year-old woman, and upon being greeted by the victim, Ely told her “that he was a tree trimmer working in the neighbor’s yard.”

“He wanted the victim to come into the backyard to see the work he was doing,” police said in a statement.

The victim complied and the two spent roughly 15 minutes in the backyard, during which time Ely pointed out branches that he told her was going to cut.

Ely then received a call on his cellphone and immediately left.

“The victim thought this was suspicious and went into the residence to call police to report the subject,” according to police.

After calling River Forest police, the victim went upstairs and found that someone had gone through the chest drawers in the master bedroom. She eventually concluded that someone had taken from the home a set of antique sterling silver platters, valued over at more than $1,000. The victim had brought the platters with her when the family had immigrated to this country, police said.

After being contacted by the victim, River Forest detectives engaged the Illinois State Police Gypsy Crime Task Force, which in turn provided information linking Ely as a possible suspect. The victim further solidified this lead by identifying Ely in a photo lineup. Officials also learned that Ely was a suspect in two similar incidents being investigated by police in South Barrington.

Police subsequently located Ely in Hickory Hills, where he was apprehended and transported to the River Forest police station.

“Residents are encouraged to not let door to door sales or repair persons into their residences, and to never allow them to take you outside to inspect an area outside of your house,” said River Forest Deputy Chief James O’Shea. “These types of ruse residential burglaries target senior citizens, with 92 percent of the victims being between the ages of 65 and 79 years of age. Residents should call the police if suspicious vehicles or persons are seen driving or approaching homes in the village.”

Ely was charged with one class 1 felony count of residential burglary, in addition to two additional charges of residential burglary secured by South Barrington Police.

Ely’s bond hearing was held on July 9 and the case is pending trial, with a bond set at $75,000 for the River Forest case and $250,000 for the South Barrington cases.

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