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Local News

Joliet detective: Phony fixer still in business

Private investigator Michael Colella talks with client Javier Balderas at his Joliet office on Thursday.
Private investigator Michael Colella talks with client Javier Balderas at his Joliet office on Thursday.

A Joliet private detective said he has new evidence of an ongoing scam promising to fix tickets, provide driver’s licenses, and deliver other favors for cash.

Michael Colella, who heads the Chicago Intel Agency, said he will bring evidence to authorities that clients in Will and Cook counties gave money for favors promised from a man posing as an employee with the Office of the Illinois Secretary of State.

“There are probably well over 100 victims altogether,” Colella said. “The majority of them have not come forward because they are undocumented immigrants.”

Secretary of State spokeswoman
Elizabeth Kaufman confirmed that their police are investigating Hugo Torres, who pleaded guilty in Will County to
theft in 2016 when the same scam came to light.

A statement from Secretary of State Jesse White urged the public “to call the Secretary of State police if confronted by anyone offering jobs, driver’s licenses or other state services outside of our driver services facility.”

Colella said he has heard from more than 10 people in recent months that repeat similar allegations made in the past two years.

Colella brought similar evidence of the scam in 2016, contributing to the arrest and eventual conviction of Torres, 45, of Berwyn.

Torres pleaded guilty to theft by deception and was sentenced to probation.

On Wednesday, an arrest warrant was issued after Torres failed to appear for a Will County hearing on whether to revoke his probation because he missed required visits to the Cook County Probation office.

Colella said he continues to hear from victims who find his name during internet searches from news reports on Torres’ scam in 2016, and again in 2017 when he allegedly left more people in his wake who claimed to have given money for undelivered favors.

Javier Balderas of Chicago is a Colella client who said a man who identified himself only as “Jose” promised him a commercial driver’s license for $2,000. Balderas said he gave the man the money at a Joliet restaurant.

The same man promised his brother a job for $150, Balderas said.

But when Balderas went to a Secretary of State facility in Chicago, where “Jose” said he worked, to get the license, no one there had heard of him. Later that day, Balderas said, his brother got a call from a police officer.

“He told him, ‘It’s actually a scam. He’s actually Hugo Torres,’ ” Balderas said.

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