Chicago — Prosecutors say a 13-time convicted felon provided Chicago cops with a unique defense after they allegedly caught him driving a stolen car: He’s a burglar, not a car thief.
Frank Ortiz, 56, is correct. He is a burglar. In fact, he’s on parole for his fourth burglary conviction right now. Coincidentally, the allegedly stolen car that he was driving was taken in a burglary, prosecutors say.
Chicago police officers pulled Ortiz over in the 1100 block of North Cicero on Sunday after they determined that the Volkswagen Jetta he was driving had a stolen license plate attached, prosecutors said. The cops then discovered the vehicle identification number in the car’s windshield had been covered.
After a bit of research, police determined that the license plates were supposed to be on a blue Volkswagen SUV, and the black Jetta was reported stolen late last year, prosecutors said.
Cops called the Jetta’s registered owner and learned that a burglar had taken the car’s keys during a break-in at his home on December 10. He reported the vehicle, which had been parked in front of his house, stolen two days later.
“I’m not a car thief. I’m a burglar,” Ortiz allegedly told the cops during an “utterance” that a prosecutor conceded may not have been verbatim.
Ortiz spoke up in court and advised Judge Charles Beach that he actually told the officers that “my convictions are for burglary.”
“My daughter,” Ortiz continued. “she got the car from somewhere.”
His public defender told Beach that Ortiz has three children, two under 18. The lawyer said he works full-time in a sandwich factory and regularly attends church.
Beach ordered Ortiz, who is charged with possessing a stolen motor vehicle, to pay a $500 bail deposit to go home. Despite the new allegations, state officials have decided not to revoke his parole, prosecutors said.
According to Illinois Department of Corrections records, Ortiz was released from prison in February 2022 after serving half of a seven-year burglary sentence. His previous convictions include escape from electronic monitoring in 2018, residential burglary in 2013, possession of a firearm with a defaced serial number in 2011, theft in 2009, and attempted burglary in 2006.
Other sentences he has received include a 16-year term for residential burglary in 1999, two 3-year terms for being a felon in possession of firearms in 1998, and 12 years for armed robbery in 1984.