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People v. Wildey

AUGUST 28, 1967.




Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County, Criminal Division; the Hon. IRVING LANDESMAN and EDWARD E. PLUSDRAK, Judges, presiding. Affirmed.


The defendant, Carl Wildey, and LeRoy Hartle were indicted on June 29, 1962, for forgery. *fn1 After a separate jury trial the defendant, Carl Wildey, was convicted of that offense and was released on probation for a period of five years with the condition that he repay the sum of $12,500 within ten months.

Contentions on Appeal

1. Defendant was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt in that the principal witness for the prosecution was impeached;

2. Defendant was denied his right to a speedy trial, as required by the Four Term Act;

3. Defendant did not receive a fair trial.


The following facts are not substantially in dispute. For a time prior to August 6, 1959, the defendant, Le Roy Hartle and one Carl Ruhl were in the insurance business in Blue Island, Illinois, in an insurance agency known as Hartford Enterprises. This company was the agent of the American Bankers Insurance Company of Florida, and it was also engaged in adjusting insurance claims. The defendant was president of Hartford Enterprises, Hartle was vice-president and Ruhl was another officer. In addition to Hartford Enterprises, the three had also set up another corporation known as Wil-Hart Automotive Inc. The purpose of this business was to provide a garage to repair automobiles owned by insureds of Hartford Enterprises. Defendant was president of that company and Hartle was vice-president.

At this point the testimony diverges from agreement. Hartle testified that the garage business did not succeed and that he was instructed by defendant to prepare false claims in order to obtain money; that on August 6, 1959, he (Hartle) then took the insurance policy of Walter Krueger from the files, made up a fictitious statement of loss along with a repair bill and duplicate drafts, and signed the assured's name to the statement of loss and the other supporting forms (which contained a description of a loss which never occurred), all without authority from Krueger, the assured. Hartle also prepared and signed the drafts on American Bankers, which were payable to Wil-Hart Automotive Inc. He then gave some papers relating to the claim to defendant, who checked them to see that they were complete and then crumpled them so they would look as though they had gone through an automobile repairman's hands; the claim papers were mailed to American Bankers in Miami, Florida, where they were received in the normal course of business, processed and the draft deposited in the Beverly Bank by defendant. The draft was then honored by the Miami bank of American Bankers resulting in payment of the claim and a credit in the Beverly Bank account of Wil-Hart Automotive Inc. The drafts on American Bankers drawn in connection with the false statements of loss were all deposited by defendant in the Beverly account in which only defendant could make deposits and withdrawals and his signature was the only one authorized on checks relating to the business.

Hartle also testified that on prior occasions defendant had ordered other "phoney baloney" claims to be made in a similar manner.

At the trial defendant testified and denied his guilt. Defendant related his limited duties in the business, stating that he would come to the business in the morning, open the mail, make deposits, would make a few phone calls, go to lunch and then would not be at the office for the rest of the day. Defendant stated that he never told Hartle to draw false claims. He denied having crumpled or dirtied various claim papers. He admitted that he had control over the money belonging to the business, that he was the only authorized signature on the bank accounts, that only he could withdraw money or write checks on the Beverly Bank, and that he used the bank account to pay some of his bar bills. Defendant admitted the drafts "went into the bank account upon which I was the only signature that could withdraw the money after it went in." He stated that he had started the Wil-Hart Account at the Beverly Bank with $1,000 of "his own money" but admitted that he withdrew it later. He admitted that he drew a salary of $500 per month from the business while Hartle drew no salary. "There were no checks paid to Hartle. He never drew a nickel. He would live off his income from the previous business." He also stated that he was unsophisticated about the insurance business, but he acknowledged that he knew that the claim papers had to be sent to the Florida Insurance Company before the drafts would be honored.

Clarence Malloy and Robert Keleher, acknowledged business friends of the defendant, testified that Hartle had a poor reputation for integrity and honesty. Malloy, Keleher and two other witnesses testified that defendant had a good reputation.

Carl Ruhl testified in rebuttal and corroborated the testimony of Hartle. He stated that defendant controlled the business bank accounts; that he saw defendant crumple proofs of loss; that defendant would always check the proofs of loss to make sure they were complete and that defendant then made sure they were mailed so the drafts would be paid by the Beverly Bank. He further stated that on May 15, 1959, he saw Hartle give defendant a statement of loss and defendant put it and other documents on the floor and that defendant walked on them and rolled the castors of his office chair back and forth over them; that he heard defendant tell Hartle to prepare "some more of those phoney baloney claims." Ruhl also testified that defendant had a poor reputation for truth and veracity.

I. Defendant first contends that he was not proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt because the principal prosecution witness, LeRoy Hartle, was impeached. We would point out that Hartle's testimony as to the facts concerning the crime was contradicted only by defendant. Two other defense witnesses, Keleher and Malloy, testified only as to Hartle's allegedly poor reputation for truth and veracity. However, the reliability of their testimony was subject to question since (1) Keleher did not know where Hartle lived and had no association with businessmen having dealings with Hartle in 1959; (2) Malloy had no contact with neighbors or business people who had contact with Hartle; (3) Malloy employed Hartle in his ...

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