Ald. Proco ‘Joe’ Moreno hit with insurance fraud, obstruction of justice charges
Ald. Moreno was given an I-bond and ordered released on his own recognizance during a bond hearing at the Leighton Criminal Courthouse.
Ald. Proco “Joe” Moreno (1st) walked out of the Leighton Criminal Courthouse Wednesday after a Cook County judge granted him an I-bond on charges connected to an alleged false police report he filed in January.
The alderman, who is set to leave office next week after losing a bid for reelection, nodded along as his lawyer spoke at a brief bond hearing, recounting how Moreno had cooperated with police shortly after a woman he had been dating was pulled over in his 2016 Audi A6 and charged with stealing the car.
Moreno did not talk to reporters as he walked out of the courthouse a few hours later, climbed into a waiting black SUV and rode off down South California Avenue.
During the bond hearing, prosecutors said the woman who had been arrested had text messages that showed Moreno had loaned her the car, and was trying to make dinner plans with her — even after he reported the car stolen to both Chicago police and his insurance company.
Judge John Fitzgerald Lyke Jr. said the evidence as provided in court “outlines... if, true, at least a terrible lapse in judgment.”
Moreno faces charges of disorderly conduct, obstruction of justice and insurance fraud.
Lyke is the same judge who set $100,000 bail for “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett in another false police report case earlier this year.
Moreno was taken into custody on the felony charges Tuesday night, according to Chicago police. Attorney Camilo Oceguera told the judge that Moreno had immediately hired a lawyer and cooperated with police after the woman was arrested months ago. But the lawyer said Moreno had heard nothing from police until he got news that an arrest warrant had been issued for him.
”For two-and-a-half terms, he has been an alderman and serving his constituents and been nothing but a perfect member of society,” Oceguera said.
On Jan. 4, Moreno called 911 to report that his Audi had been stolen from his Bucktown home. But prosecutors said 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.
”The call operator informed Moreno that anyone found driving the vehicle would be arrested,” Assistant State’s Attorney Tom Simpson said in court.
A month later, the woman who said she was in an on-and-off relationship with the alderman, was pulled over on the Northwest Side. The woman begged police officers to look at texts from Moreno that showed he had loaned her the car. But the woman was taken into custody after police were unable to get the alderman on the phone or find him at his house, prosecutors said.
Moreno also told his insurance company that the car had been taken, and in a follow-up call about his claim nearly a month later, Moreno speculated that he had left the key in the car in his garage, and must have forgotten to close the overhead door to the garage or that someone had used a device to unscramble his door opener signal, Simpson said. The insurance company did not pay out on Moreno’s claim, Simpson said, but had been prepared to offer the alderman as much as $30,000.
Moreno lost his re-election bid to challenger Daniel La Spata in February, just weeks after the news stories about the stolen car report surfaced.
Moreno had also faced political headwinds after a woman reported he had flashed a “peace officer” badge — which is issued to all alderman — and ordered her to give up a parking space near Wrigley Field. Moreno also was filmed taunting the owner of the Bucktown building that housed the famed Double Door music club, after the building owner had evicted the club owners.
Contributing: Sam Kelly