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Operation Greylord: Behind the scenes of the 1980s investigation that shook Illinois

What is Operation Greylord?

Operation Greylord was led by the FBI and a group of U.S. attorneys. Their three-and-a-half-year undercover investigation of the Cook County court system led to the indictment of 92 judges, lawyers, policemen and court clerks.

Operation Greylord was named after a racehorse, picked at random out of a racing sheet on the back pages of the Chicago Sun-Times. The FBI agents and U.S. attorneys simply liked how it sounded.

These images take an inside look at the key players of the investigation and some of the corrupt people it took down.

Read more about Operation Greylord and watch Decade's video here.

A wide-reaching scandal

Illinois and Chicago certainly have their history with crooked politicians, but the corruption of justice unearthed by Operation Greylord shocked locals and sent reverberation around the United States. A total of 93 people were indicted, including 17 judges, 48 lawyers, 10 deputy sheriffs, eight policemen, eight court officials and state legislator James DeLeo. Of the 17 judges indicted, 15 were convicted.

Convicted and sentenced

Judge Richard LeFevour, left, was sentenced to 12 years in prison for accepting bribes. Judge John Murphy, right, was sentenced to 10 years in prison for accepting bribes.

Convicted and sentenced

Judge John Devine was sentenced to 15 years in prison for accepting bribes.

A man undercover

Assistant State's Attorney Terrence "Terry" Hake played a key role in the investigation, posing as a crooked lawyer and gaining inside information. Hake went undercover for more than three years, wearing a wire to catch members of the court system on the take.

Risking his career

"I was only about two-and-a-half years out of law school, hadn't been to the FBI academy," Hake remembers. "I was told I would never practice law again in Cook County if I did this project."

Sworn in

Chicago FBI Chief Ed Hegarty (left) swears in Terry Hake (right) as an FBI agent.

Planning Operation Greylord

Pictured left to right: Assistant U.S. Attorney Charles Sklarsky, FBI mole Terry Hake, FBI Case Agent Bill Megary, Assistant U.S. Attorney Dan Reidy

Operation Greylord was a massive operation

FBI agents from all over the United States poured into the Chicago area to help run the operation and stage phony crimes.

The FBI staged fake crimes all over Chicago

To catch corrupt judges on the take, the FBI staged fake crimes. The "criminals," arresting officers and lawyers were all in on the sting. "We had to make crimes occur in certain areas that would then guarantee that the case would go to a certain court where we could get assigned to a certain judge," explains Dan Webb, United States Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois, 1981–85. 

Making the 'Operation Greylord' documentary

A Decades producer interviews former Chicago WBBM reporter John Drummond.

Remembering the past

Mike Monico was the attorney for Susie Dineff’s husband, David. David Dineff was wrongly accused and one of a very few acquitted during Operation Greylord.

Dirty judges

Judge Wayne Olson (left) and Attorney Edward Genson (right). Judge Olson was considered so corrupt that the FBI took the unprecedented step of bugging his chambers.

Caught on tape

Transcript of an FBI recording that captured a conversation between Judge Wayne Olson and attorney Bruce Roth.

Read more transcripts and dig into the case files of Operation Greylord on our exclusive documents page.

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