EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. – Four St. Louis men face felony charges in connection with a vehicle sale scheme through which they allegedly used fake cashier’s checks to buy vehicles from private sellers online and resold the vehicles for profit.
An 11-count federal indictment charges Alen Saric, 35, Valentino Colic, 32, Emad Hasanbegovic, 33, and Almir Palic, 24.
All four are accused of conspiracy to commit wire fraud and aggravated identity theft. Colic and Saric are also charged with interstate transportation of stolen goods for allegedly transferring the vehicles from Illinois to Missouri.
According to court documents, the four men participated in a scheme to defraud people attempting to sell their vehicles on Facebook and Craigslist from 2018 until August 2023. They reportedly used fake cashier’s checks to acquire the vehicles.
Once the men possessed a vehicle, they would then resell the vehicle to another person for cash before the original victim could try to cash the check, only to realize it was bogus.
The indictment alleges that Saric, Colic, Hasanbegovic and Palic 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 the victims’ photo IDs.
Investigators say the men acquired vehicles from victims in Madison, Jasper, Bond and Fayette counties, and co-conspirators issued more than $1 million in fake cashier’s checks.
“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.
“Criminals are skilled at creating fake checks that look real,” said FBI Springfield Field Office Special Agent in Charge David Nanz. “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 avoid situations like this, the FBI warns people not to assume checks are genuine when received from people they previously didn’t know. The Federal Trade Commission also offers advice on how to avoid and report such instances.
If convicted, the four men could spend decades behind bars.