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FBI, state police on NIU campus to execute search warrant

Published: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 8:33 a.m. CDT • Updated: Wednesday, March 6, 2013 11:13 p.m. CDT
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(Kyle Bursaw – kbursaw@shawmedia.com)
FBI and Illinois State Police enter the University Police and Public Safety building at Northern Illinois University on Wednesday in DeKalb.

The police station at Northern Illinois University was locked down Wednesday as special agents from the FBI and state police served a search warrant there.

The FBI is the lead investigating agency in the incident, and is operating in conjunction with the U.S. Department of Education's Office of the Inspector General, and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Office of Inspector General, officials said.

The inspector generals at federal agencies typically investigate alleged fraud or waste of agency funds or in agency programs.

FBI Chicago Media Coordinator Joan Hyde declined to comment on the search or the nature of the investigation, but multiple NIU officials have come under scrutiny in the past year. The search began about 8 a.m. and was continuing Wednesday afternoon, although authorities expect it to finish today, Hyde said.

Two administrators were under investigation for allegedly using NIU employees or equipment for personal use when they quit in July. Robert Albanese, former associate vice president of the Division of Finance, Facilities and Operations, and John Gordon, former director of the Convocation Center, submitted signed letters of resignation July 19 and July 20, respectively.

Albanese also was connected to the "coffee fund," an off-the-books repository for proceeds from the sale of NIU-owned scrap metal and other materials that NIU officials have said was used for retirement parties and other office expenses. Besides Albanese, eight NIU employees were indicted in connection to that investigation; six have returned to work and two remain on paid leave.

Then, longtime NIU Police Chief Donald Grady was fired last month for his department's mishandling of a rape case against one of his own officers. Former NIU police officer Andrew Rifkin, 25, of Northbrook, is accused of raping a student off-campus while he was off duty in October 2011. Lt. Kartik Ramakrishnan - who has said he mistakenly placed two witness statements in Rifkin’s personnel file, rather than giving them to prosecutors - remains on paid leave.

On Wednesday, Illinois State Police were on the scene with a mobile command unit, and law enforcement officers were seen taking items out of the building and into the vehicle.

The building includes the information technology services department and the health services department, but NIU spokesman Paul Palian said the Department of Police and Public Safety was the only target of the search, as far as he knew. The university is cooperating fully with the matter.

An FBI press release said the action was not in response to any public safety concerns, and although no one is being allowed into the building, the NIU Police would continue to function as normal.

"No arrests have been made nor charges filed with respect to the investigation," the release said. "Due to the ongoing nature of the matter, no additional information is available at this time."

Hyde, the FBI Chicago media coordinator, said the FBI typically did not announce searches but decided to issue a news release about this one around 8:15 a.m. to avoid passersby noticing the police presence and worrying about a large emergency.

Stay with www.daily-chronicle.com for more as this develops.

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