Four Indicted on Federal Charges for Fraudulent Vehicle Sale Scheme
For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Southern District of Illinois
Lauren Barry, Public Affairs Officer
EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – Four St. Louis men are facing multiple federal charges for their alleged actions in a scheme to use fake cashier’s checks to buy vehicles from private sellers online, to then resell for profit.
The 11-count indictment charges Alen Saric, 35, Valentino Colic, 32, Emad Hasanbegovic, 33, and Almir Palic, 24, with multiple felonies including conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft.
“Many people use the internet to sell personal property, but unfortunately, scammers also use the internet as a tool to defraud and steal,” said U.S. Attorney Rachelle Aud Crowe.
According to court documents, the codefendants participated in a scheme to defraud vehicle sellers on Facebook and Craigslist with fake cashier’s checks from 2018 until August 2023. Once the fraudsters possessed a vehicle, they would then resell the vehicle to another individual for cash before the original victim could try to cash the check and realize it was worthless.
“The conspiracy as outlined in the indictment is yet another example of criminals using fake checks to defraud victims,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “The FBI advises the public to not assume checks are genuine when received from individuals not previously known. Such caution should be exercised whether the check appears to be cashier’s, official, or certified. Criminals are skilled at creating fake checks that look real, so protect yourself by either going to the bank that issued the check to confirm its authenticity or waiting until the check clears your bank before turning over property or otherwise transferring funds.”
To keep their names out of the chain of title, the indictment alleges the codefendants used the names of prior victims to buy and sell the vehicles and to complete documents such as titles and bills of sale. When posing as the victims, they often used victims’ photo IDs.
The fraudsters bought vehicles from victims in Madison, Jasper, Bond and Fayette counties within the Southern District of Illinois. The indictment alleges the co-conspirators issued more than $1 million in fake cashier’s checks.
For allegedly transferring the vehicles from Illinois to Missouri, Colic and Saric are also charged with interstate transportation of stolen goods.
An indictment is merely a formal charge against a defendant. Under the law, a defendant is presumed to be innocent of a charge until proved guilty beyond a reasonable doubt to the satisfaction of a jury.
Conspiracy to commit wire fraud is punishable by up to 20 years’ imprisonment, and interstate transportation of stolen goods is punishable by up to 10 years’ imprisonment.
FBI Springfield Field Office, the Metro East Auto Theft Task Force, Missouri State Highway Patrol, Illinois State Police, Illinois Secretary of State Police, Jefferson County (Missouri) Sheriff’s Department and several local police departments contributed to the investigation. Assistant U.S. Attorney Peter T. Reed is prosecuting the case.
Updated November 16, 2023