This is a weekly series that profiles America's most wanted criminals.
By all appearances, Sgt. Eddie Hicks was a superstar narcotics detective. A 30-year veteran of the Chicago police force, he made dozens of raids on suspected drug dealers, taking firearms out of the hands of criminals and netting thousands in cash and kilos in cocaine.
Yet his actions didn't win him awards and accolades. Instead, he earned a reputation as one of Chicago's most crooked cops.
Authorities say Hicks wasn't interested in busting bad guys in those raids — he was after the drugs instead, and allegedly kept the money and sold the seized cocaine and marijuana to rival dealers. None of those rotten raids netted any arrests, and officials say he kept it up for almost a decade until he and his accomplices were picked up in an undercover sweep in 2001.
Hicks once was trained by the FBI at its academy in Quantico, but now he is being pursued by them. At 59, he has been the subject of a nationwide manhunt since he went on the lam in 2003.
According to the feds, Hicks’ four-man crew had all the trappings of the real thing: they rolled up in full uniform in unmarked squad cars, fully armed and ready to go with forged search warrants and counterfeit badges that hid their identities.
"They were doing what they were supposed to be doing, but they were doing it for themselves," said Special Agent Ross Rice of the FBI's Chicago office. "They weren't making arrests, they weren't collecting evidence. They were robbing one bad guy and giving it to another."
With his position in the department, Hicks had access to the names and addresses of suspected drug dealers, which the FBI says he shared with another longtime police sergeant and two former civilian employees of the department.
"He worked for five years in the drug unit of the Chicago police department, so he certainly learned his craft," said Rice.
For nearly 10 years, feds say, this crew robbed and extorted hundreds of pounds of marijuana and kilograms of cocaine, telling their targets they were DEA task force officers even as they robbed them blind. But on April 20, 1999, one bust went wrong, and it started the investigation that would bring them down two years later.
According to press reports, a drug dealer was on the phone with his girlfriend in Alsip, Ill., when his house was raided by Hicks' crew. The woman thought her boyfriend was being attacked, and she called local police. They arrived on the scene to find Hicks & co., who offered a cover story the cops found suspicious.
They alerted Chicago police, whose Internal Affairs Division began an investigation with the FBI that eventually culminated in a sting operation and the arrest of the ring in February 2001.
Hicks was indicted on 12 counts of extortion, narcotics conspiracy, racketeering and federal firearm violations. All told, five men were charged in the ring, and all but Hicks pleaded guilty or were convicted in court.
Hicks was released on bond after his arrest and failed to appear for his trial in June 2003, triggering the five-year hunt. "It's certainly more difficult and challenging to find him, and I think in most cases you could say it's more dangerous," said Rice.
Hicks may have a marked advantage over many other fugitives, as he was trained by both the police and FBI. "He was a graduate of our FBI academy in Quantico . . . [where] he attended a training school for command level police officers," Rice said.
Chicago Police declined to comment on the Hicks case or on any of the convicted conspirators. "Nobody wants to talk about this," said police spokeswoman Monique Bond.
The FBI is offering a reward of $5,000 for information leading to Hicks' arrest, but cautions that he could still pose a significant threat.
"The crimes that he's alleged to have committed involve armed robbery of drug dealers," said Rice. "Combined with his law enforcement training and background, he should certainly be considered armed and dangerous."
Eddie Hicks, just shy of 60, is 5-foot-9 with grayish black hair and a slight moustache. He is described as being of medium build and weighing 165 pounds. He wore glasses before his disappearance. Hicks, who retired from the force in 2000, has been known to travel to Brazil.
Anyone with information on his whereabouts should contact the FBI's Chicago office at 312- 421-6700.