APPELLATE COURT OF ILLINOIS, FIRST DISTRICT, SECOND DIVISION
517 N.E.2d 285, 163 Ill. App. 3d 73, 115 Ill. Dec. 83 1987.IL.1591
Appeal from the Circuit Court of Cook County; the Hon. James M. Schreier, Judge, presiding.
April 21, 1987, nunc pro tunc
JUSTICE HARTMAN delivered the opinion of the court. STAMOS and BILANDIC, JJ., concur.
DECISION OF THE COURT DELIVERED BY THE HONORABLE JUDGE HARTMAN
Following a bench trial, defendant appeals his convictions for insurance fraud, fraudulent application for a motor vehicle title, theft, theft by deception, forgery, and conspiracy. (Ill. Rev. Stat. 1981, ch. 38, pars. 8-2, 16-1(a)(1), (b)(1), 17-3(a)(1), (a)(2); ch. 73, par. 1101; ch. 95 1/2, par. 4-105(a)(5).) He claims on appeal that: he was not proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt; evidence of his attempted purchase of another auto nine months after the purchase of the subject auto denied him a fair trial; and admission of other crimes evidence against his co-defendant was prejudicial.
In May 1982, defendant Dionisio Brozan, owner and operator of International Tours and Travel, Inc.,and Roma International Driving School, met a friend and former employee, Peter Sherovki (also referred to as Serafsky), who also owned a driving school. Sherovki showed defendant his recently purchased Mercedes Benz. After driving the car, defendant expressed an interest in obtaining a Mercedes.
In June 1982, Sherovki contacted defendant concerning such a purchase and met him in a bar, where he introduced Dusan Pavlovic (codefendant) to defendant. Defendant test drove a 1980 blue-green Mercedes and the three men discussed the purchase of the car. Two or three days later, defendant and Pavlovic agreed on a $32,000 purchase price. On June 26, 1982, they went to the Midwest Bank, where defendant filled out a loan application after speaking to bank vice-president James McMahon. Defendant stated he paid Pavlovic $7,000 in cash and Pavlovic signed over to him the title to the car. On June 29, 1982, the bank approved a loan of $25,000 to defendant for the purchase of a 1980 Mercedes 450 SEL.
Craig Dearing, a field service manager for Mercedes Benz of North America, testified that every Mercedes is manufactured in West Germany and contains a vehicle identification number . Mercedes records indicate that it did not manufacture an automobile with the VIN number attached to the 1980 Mercedes purchased by defendant. VIN numbers can be physically altered but are not changed in the normal course of business. Dearing had heard of VIN numbers being altered on "gray" market cars which are not designed to meet American standards but are shipped to another country before being brought into the United States. This is done to make them appear legal when privately brought into the United States. Detective Michael Micetic of the Chicago police auto theft section testified that stolen cars sometimes have had their VIN numbers changed. Carl Phillips, an employee of Loeber Motors, testified that the VIN number on defendant's 1980 auto resembled a bona fide Mercedes VIN
number. A Florida police detective, testifying for the State, was aware that false VIN numbers were sometimes put on Mercedes autos and, when a title paper was prepared consistent with the altered VIN number, he could not tell whether the title document was genuine or not.
The title history of the 1980 Mercedes indicated it was originally imported from Colombia. A Mercedes with the VIN number attached to defendant's auto possessed an Ohio vehicle title issued June 23, 1982, in the name of Dusan Pavlovic, 194 Morse Road, Columbus, Ohio. The parties stipulated that David Johnson, a Columbus, Ohio, letter carrier, would testify that there was no such address as 194 Morse Road in Columbus since at least February 21, 1981, when he was assigned the Morse Road route. An Ohio certification for the car describes a 1980 four-door Mercedes 450 SEL with the VIN number of defendant's auto. That certification indicates that defendant's auto, bearing the altered VIN number, was inspected by an Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles employee and certified before defendant's purchase.
After the loan was approved, defendant registered the car in his name, obtained license plates, and paid Pavlovic $6,500 in cash. Pavlovic wanted payment completely in cash. Defendant deposited the loan check in his own account, gave Pavlovic either $8,000 or $9,000 in cash on July 1, 1982, and paid the remaining $10,000 in two installments to a man Pavlovic sent to him after telephoning instructions. Defendant secured no receipts for his cash payments.
Defendant obtained an insurance policy for the 1980 Mercedes in July 1982 with Wausau Insurance Company, which gave him the highest possible coverage for personal injury, uninsured motorist and medical payments. Defendant noted that his Mercedes lacked a spare tire, jack and tool kit; he purchased them at Loeber Motors in summer of 1982. He also had the front end of the car aligned there. He had receipts for these expenditures. That same month defendant took the Mercedes to the North Oak Chrysler dealership for a State-required physical inspection of the auto. John Kohut, Chrysler manager, remembered verifying the VIN number of a light green Mercedes brought there by defendant. That summer two employees and a former business ...