APPEAL from the Circuit Court of De Kalb County; the Hon. REX
F. MEILINGER, Judge, presiding.
JUSTICE UNVERZAGT DELIVERED THE OPINION OF THE COURT:
Opinion filed May 18, 1982. Modified opinion filed on denial of rehearing,
The defendant was charged by information with two counts of forgery (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1979, ch. 38, par. 17-3(a)(3)). The information specified the forged checks as being Nos. 1527 and 1528 purported to be made by Chicago South Sales Company and drawn on the Bank of Hickory Hills in the amounts of $277.33 and $259.03, respectively. The defendant was convicted by a jury and sentenced to three years' imprisonment by the circuit court of De Kalb County.
Before the commencement of the trial, defense counsel made a motion in limine to exclude evidence of "other transactions by the defendant with respect to the depositing or negotiation of other checks or money orders, other than the ones specifically mentioned in the information herein." The defense also moved to suppress a statement given to the police by the defendant. Both motions were denied by the trial judge. The defendant recorded a continuing objection to the use of such evidence of extra-indictment forgeries.
The State's first witness, Janice Herrmann, bank teller at the Sycamore Road Drive-Up facility of the De Kalb Bank, testified that on June 17, 1980, defendant presented two checks — Nos. 1527 and 1528 — made by Chicago South Sales Company and drawn on the Bank of Hickory Hills. He asked that $50 be deposited in his account and the rest of the proceeds given to him in cash. Upon checking his balance, the witness testified, she found it to be very low, about $10, and after conferring with her supervisor she declined to cash the checks, advising Rodriguez that the checks would have to be left for deposit until cleared. She testified that he asked to have the checks back and said he would go somewhere else to cash them. Herrmann, becoming suspicious, wrote down the names of the payees, and the numbers of the checks before returning them to the defendant. As the defendant drove away, she noticed the license number of his car and gave this information to the police. Herrmann testified she had seen the defendant previously at the bank as a customer and if his balance had been sufficient, she would have cashed the checks.
The next witness was Ray Christian, owner of Chicago South Sales Company. He testified that his business, located at 6958 Archer Avenue, in Chicago, had been burglarized on June 4, 1980, and a fire had been set to cover the burglary. He found on inspection that several items were missing, including blank checks in the 1300 through 1500 series. He notified the bank to stop payment on these checks. Christian identified checks Nos. 1527 and 1528 as being among those stolen and that the maker's signatures on the checks were unauthorized. Check No. 1527 was payable to Juanita Rodriguez, check No. 1528 was payable to Reyes Rodriguez, both unknown to Christian. A third check of Chicago South Sales Company, No. 1339, was also introduced into evidence. This check was payable to Ray Rodriguez and had been cashed by the De Kalb Bank. Check No. 1337 of Chicago South Sales Company, payable to Ramon Gaona, was also identified by a De Kalb Bank teller as having been cashed by that bank. Both checks were endorsed by the defendant. Both the payee and the person signing the checks were unknown to Christian.
The State's next witness was De Kalb detective James Kayes. He testified he investigated the attempted cashing of checks Nos. 1527 and 1528 at the De Kalb Bank and in this connection questioned the defendant at his home on June 17. He said the defendant told him he had been asked by his sister-in-law, Juanita, to try to cash these checks for her; that he had attempted to do so in company with his brother, Felix, but had been told that he would have to leave the checks to be cleared, which he refused to do. Detective Kayes did not arrest the defendant on that occasion. He did inform the defendant that he was investigating the attempted cashing of the checks because he had learned that these checks were among a batch of checks which had been stolen in a burglary and payment had been stopped on them. The next day, in company with Detective Jack Garvey, he again questioned the defendant. He said the defendant told him that he and his brother had tried to cash the checks at the De Kalb Bank and after being turned down they tried to cash the checks at another drive-in facility but were again told that they would have to wait for the checks to clear. After that, they went to another bank in Sycamore and were again told that they would have to wait for the checks to clear. Detective Kayes testified that the defendant said that when his brother handed him the checks and asked him to cash them, that his brother had said the checks were the proceeds of an insurance settlement. Afterward, he said, when the defendant returned the checks to his brother, Juan, that Juan told him that he had gotten the checks in exchange for a vehicle he had sold in Chicago. Kayes testified that the defendant told him he had asked Juan whether the checks were stolen. A statement incorporating these facts and signed by the defendant was identified by Kayes as having been given by the defendant to him at the De Kalb police station.
Kayes went on to testify that on June 24 he had a further conversation with the defendant at the De Kalb police station. This was with reference to checks Nos. 1337 and 1339, also of Chicago South Sales Company. At that time, the defendant told him that he had been at his brother Felix' house when a Mexican who was a stranger to him came to the house and asked for George (the defendant). Upon being told that he was George, the Mexican told him that he was having difficulty getting some checks cashed as he had no identification because he was an illegal alien. He asked the defendant to help him cash the checks and the defendant took the checks to the De Kalb Bank and cashed them and gave the Mexican the proceeds, receiving $5 from him.
The prosecutor then asked Detective Kayes if he had any further conversation with the defendant, to which Kayes replied that on June 30 he had talked to the defendant about another check, a cashier's check drawn on the Continental Bank in Chicago made by Noma World Wide Company. This was another check which had been returned for debit to the defendant's account since payment had been stopped. Kayes related that the defendant had told him that he had been in a tavern with a friend and there had met a Mexican who asked him if he would help to get a check cashed because he was an illegal alien and had no identification. The defendant, Kayes testified, said that he had agreed to do so. He took the check to the De Kalb drive-up facility and cashed it and returned the proceeds to the Mexican stranger, who gave him $10. The check, endorsed by the defendant, was admitted into evidence.
On cross-examination, defense counsel asked Kayes if he had any knowledge or any evidence in his possession indicating the defendant knew the checks he had negotiated were stolen. Kayes answered, "Yes, the fact that he was involved in the cashing of eight stolen checks in the month of June this year." Upon further questioning, Kayes conceded he had no other knowledge indicating that the defendant had known the checks were stolen.
Francisco Moreno, a Chicago resident, also testified through an interpreter about the Noma World Wide check. He said that his apartment in Chicago had been burglarized during the first week in June and that a pay check of Noma World Wide payable to him which he had endorsed was stolen in the burglary. Other items taken in the burglary were described which the victim had never recovered. The assistant cashier of the De Kalb Bank also testified that the Noma World Wide check had been cashed by that bank and that since payment had been stopped by the maker bank, the De Kalb Bank was out the amount of the check.
Miguel Rivero, resident of Chicago, testified next. He said that an Illinois unemployment compensation check had been stolen when his mail box was rifled sometime in May and that he had reported this to the State unemployment office. The unemployment compensation check was introduced into evidence, and Rivero testified it was apparently the same check intended for him and that he had never received it. He said the endorsement thereon was a forgery. He was eventually reimbursed for the stolen check.
Ross Roland, owner of an establishment known as the "Pizza Wheel," testified that he cashed the Miguel Rivero check after it had been endorsed by the defendant. Roland said the defendant came into the Pizza Wheel with a Mexican Roland did not know. Roland was acquainted with the defendant as a customer. The defendant asked him to cash the check and he said he would if the defendant would "co-sign" it, whereupon the defendant endorsed the check and he cashed it. The check was returned to Roland as a stolen or forged check, and he was out the amount of the check.
Detective Jack Garvey also testified in some detail as to his conversation with the defendant regarding the circumstances surrounding the check cashed at Pizza Wheel. He said the defendant told him he was helping a friend in De Kalb who was moving when a Mexican came up to him and asked if he knew where he could cash a check, that the defendant told him it could possibly be cashed at the Pizza Wheel and, because this Mexican did not have any identification, the defendant went with him to the ...