Couple charged with stealing from hospitalized neighbor

By JAMES MITCHELL
Sunday Times Newspapers

LINCOLN PARK — A cautious bank clerk put police on the trail of a man and woman who prosecutors said had stolen checks from a neighbor while she was in the hospital having surgery.

According to police reports, 57-year-old Raul Sotelo attempted to cash a check at PNC Bank, 3984 Fort Street, shortly before 4 p.m. June 18. The teller had been familiar with the woman whose name was on the account, and noticed that the signature did not match the bank’s files.

The teller called the woman’s cell phone number and learned she was in the hospital. The woman had not authorized the check that had been presented, she said.

While the teller called police, Sotelo reportedly left the bank when the transaction took so long, and was seen leaving on foot with Lisa Marie Grauman, 39, believed to be his girlfriend.

Police next went to the victim’s apartment in the 1400 block of Old Goddard, from which a neighbor had earlier reported a burglary. The victim’s apartment was two doors down from the address given by Sotelo.

At that apartment, a woman who identified herself as Grauman’s aunt told police that Sotelo and Grauman had been staying there for “a couple of weeks.”

In recent days Grauman had given her aunt a gold ring as compensation for rent, a ring that the aunt believed may have been stolen. Grauman had told her it had been purchased at a pawn shop.

Sotelo and Grauman were not at the apartment when police first arrived. A few hours later a neighbor alerted investigators that they had returned, and investigators went back to question the couple.

While police spoke with the suspects, Grauman’s aunt gave police the gold ring she’d been given along with items she believed had been taken from the victim’s apartment or elsewhere: A DVD/VCR player, costume jewelry and a debit card in another man’s name.

The aunt told police she recently saw her niece and Sotelo at the kitchen table, “writing checks out of (the victim’s) checkbook.”

Sotelo and Grauman were arraigned June 21 before 25th District Court Judge Davdi Zelenak on charges of uttering and publishing, home invasion, felony larceny and receiving and concealing stolen property. A preliminary examination of the evidence against them is scheduled for Tuesday.

(James Mitchell can be reached at jmitchell@bewickpublications.com.)