Russell "Russ" Palermo led an active, community-oriented life as a longtime Huntley resident.
Palermo was on the village of Huntley’s planning commission as recently as last summer. He organized fundraisers. He was president of the Huntley Jaycees in the early 2000s.
He was fairly well-known around town and occasionally stopped by the American Legion in downtown Huntley for a drink.
The 45-year-old owned Palermo Insurance Agency and his business grew by word of mouth, with friends recommending friends to the agency.
What no one knew is that Palermo was not the upstanding businessman he appeared to be, police said.
Today, Palermo is a wanted man.
Palermo is charged with 29 criminal counts ranging from theft to forgery to deceptive practices, Huntley police said. An arrest warrant was issued in February and police are searching for him.
The insurance broker worked with companies like MetLife, Progressive, AAA, Hartford, BlueCross BlueShield and others, according to a web profile. The business, located at 11187 Dundee Road, No. 105, opened in 1999.
It is now closed.
Huntley police began an investigation into the agency last fall after several people came forward alleging they had been paying Palermo premiums, dating back as far as 2006, for policies that were canceled or did not exist, according to reports.
The victims learned Palermo had his insurance license revoked in 2009, police said.
According to the Illinois Department of Insurance’s website, the agency revoked his license in August of that year after an investigation found his “securities license was revoked by the NASA (now known as the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) and that he improperly withheld more than $6,000 in premiums, issued an NFS check to an insurer and failed to facilitate and aid the director in an examination. The order of revocation includes a $10,000 civil penalty,” the disciplinary report states.
Without a license, he was not authorized to sell insurance, authorities said.
Police said Palermo continued maintaining and selling insurance policies, collecting premiums from his clients even though he was not authorized to do so.
Yet, he continued to collect premiums on the canceled policies for several years before the victims became aware of the problem, according to the charges filed against him.
An employee at one local hangout where Palermo was known to stop said he has not been in the place for nine months. She had heard rumblings of problems with his business. Others were surprised by news of Palermo’s legal problems.
“I was totally caught off guard,” Huntley Trustee Ron Hahn said.
He worked with Palermo on the planning commission before his appointment to the Village Board. Hahn said he received an email late last summer that Palermo had resigned. Hahn did not know why nor had he heard about any problems.
Hahn did not have a personal friendship with Palermo but saw him around town at events like picnics. “I always found him to be very polite and social. I was caught off guard that there were issues going beyond what we” saw.
He since has learned more about Palermo’s business dealings.
“I did not do personal insurance business with him, so I was not aware of his business ethic,” Hahn said. “I had known some other business people acquired insurance and recommended him as a person to do business with.”
Huntley police are searching for other victims in the case.
Palermo’s whereabouts are unknown.