The woman who was arrested in February while driving a car belonging to Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) said Moreno asked her to keep quiet about the incident until after this year’s election.
Liliya Hrabar on Thursday said that request made her “not comfortable — it’s not what I want.” Now, she is suing the soon-to-be former alderman for defamation in Cook County Circuit Court.
Moreno not only wound up losing his election, but he also faces charges of disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice and insurance fraud. His attorney did not return a call seeking comment Thursday.
Hrabar said she still doesn’t understand why Moreno called 911 to report that his Audi had been stolen from his Bucktown home last January. The night before, Moreno had invited the 35-year-old woman he was dating over to his house, gave her the keys, took her to his garage and watched her drive away, according to prosecutors.
However, Moreno’s insurance carrier would soon be poised to pay $30,000 over the loss of the vehicle before it was found, Hrabar’s lawsuit points out.
“He never told me, clearly, what is the reason,” Hrabar said.
Michael Gallagher, Hrabar’s attorney, said his client sells insurance and lost clients when her arrest hit the news. Hrabar, who is from Ukraine, said she met Moreno in September and thought he was sweet. She said, “I don’t want anything, like, bad” to happen to him.
“I think he has to take responsibility,” Hrabar said.
Moreno called 911 to report the Audi stolen on Jan. 4, and the call operator told Moreno anyone found driving the vehicle would be arrested, according to prosecutors. A month later, Hrabar was pulled over on the Northwest Side.
“I had, like, a panic attack,” Hrabar said.
Hrabar begged police officers to look at texts from Moreno that showed he had loaned her the car. For example, he sent her a text cautioning her not to smoke in the vehicle, according to her lawsuit.
Police took her into custody after they were unable to get the alderman on the phone or find him at his house, according to prosecutors. Meanwhile, Moreno told his insurance company the car had been taken.
In a follow-up call about the insurance claim nearly a month later, Moreno allegedly suggested he had left a key in the car, or that someone could have used a device to unscramble the door-opener signal, prosecutors said.
Moreno lost his re-election bid to challenger Daniel La Spata in February, just weeks after the news stories about the stolen car surfaced.
Contributing: Andy Grimm, Matthew Hendrickson