DEA makes mistaken visit to Riverside home

Startled resident hints a lawsuit is in the works

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By BOB UPHUES

Just another quiet, ordinary Sunday morning took a detour into the Twilight Zone on April 9 for Riverside resident Krista Varady. That's because at just about 9 a.m., police and agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency, replete with Kevlar vests and aviator sunglasses, descended on her home in the 100 block of Nuttall Road and announced they were serving a narcotics warrant.

Turns out the warrant was many years old and that the man DEA agents were seeking?"as well as the house he used to live in?"can no longer be found at that address. And while police soon departed, leaving Nuttall Road residents to wonder what all the hubbub was about, Varady hinted last Friday that she and her husband might be filing a lawsuit as a response.

"I wish I could comment, but I can't," said Varady, who is the daughter of Riverside Fire Chief Anthony Bednarz.

Varady said she was acting under counsel of her attorney, and refused to comment on whether a lawsuit was imminent.

Bednarz, who was in Michigan at the time of incident, said his daughter called him right after officers left.

"She said she saw seven cars stop in front of the house, and sees guys get out of the cars in their ninja suits, with body armor on and weapons drawn," Bednarz said.

A Riverside woman who didn't wish to be identified said she happened to be driving down the street, when she saw an unmarked white van in front of a house and "five or six" agents milling around the front door.

"They were SWAT team-looking guys, with Kevlar vests," said the woman, who added she didn't see any weapons.

It turns out that Varady wasn't the only one surprised by the raid. Riverside Police weren't notified of any police action on April 9 until a reporter called to inquire about it last Wednesday.

Later they discovered that the raid was initiated by Berwyn police, who were performing a "warrant sweep" in the area early last week.

"There were 22 agencies working in seven different communities on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday," said Berwyn Police Chief William Kushner, who said that the failure to notify Riverside police of the action was an "operational snafu."

According to Kushner, Berwyn police were joined in the warrant sweep by 200 officers from other suburban police departments, the DEA, Cook County State's Attorney's Office, Cook County Sheriff's Police and the Chicago Police Department.

Riverside Assistant Police Chief Thomas Weitzel said that Berwyn had 500 unserved warrants, and that one of them was for a man whose last known address was on Nuttall Road. Since the time that warrant was issued, however, the property was sold and the old house demolished. The Varadys have owned the property since 2001.

"The warrant was quite old, but said that the person lived in Riverside on Nuttall," Kushner said, adding that during the sweep, police took 100 people into custody and identified another 100 with active warrants who were currently in jail.

Riverside Police Chief Eugene Karczewski said he was "obviously surprised" by news that other law enforcement agencies were in Riverside on April 9 and that he has subsequently had "a long conversation" with Kushner, a fellow former Chicago Police Department veteran.

"There's a protocol," Karczewski said. "He's aware of that, and he's very apologetic. His detective that was running the show [in Riverside] somehow forgot to make the call here."

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