Trial begins for Florida man facing theft charges in DuPage
Ignatius Pollara described his July 2, 2015, trek from Florida to the Western suburbs as a business trip.
DuPage County prosecutors, however, say he was in the wrong business.
"The defendant came here to steal," Assistant State's Attorney Sean Kelly said in his opening arguments. "He's a thief. He's a burglar."
Pollara, 51, is being held on $125,000 bail, accused of stealing several paintbrushes and a box of pencils in July 2015 from a Lombard Hobby Lobby store. While that is the case that landed him behind bars, prosecutors say Pollara also stole items from several Oak Brook and Lombard area shopping centers last summer.
Kelly said within 24 hours of landing at O'Hare airport on the afternoon of July 2, 2015, Pollara rented a car and entered 21 stores in Schaumburg, Oak Brook and Lombard as a team of police officers watched his every move.
"He only stopped to eat and sleep," Kelly said.
In Florida, Pollara is known as the "Toys 'R' Us Kid" and the "Lego Bandit." He was convicted in a 2012 burglary spree in which he stole more than $2 million in Lego sets and toys from the Toys "R" Us chain.
Downers Grove police Sgt. Jeremy Thayer testified that he was tipped off from a source in Florida on July 1 that Pollara would be flying into O'Hare the next day. A team of more than 10 police and loss prevention officers from Toys "R" Us and CVS chains was assembled to follow Pollara from the moment he stepped off the airplane.
Thayer said Pollara, after entering his rental car, drove erratically, frequently making quick lane changes and turns for several hours in an attempt to see if he was being followed.
After about three hours, Pollara allegedly entered his first store, an Office Depot in Schaumburg. From there, Thayer said, the team observed Pollara entering and leaving several stores, occasionally making small purchases.
After Pollara's arrest, Thayer said a warrant allowing officers to search Pollara's rental car turned up the items on the receipts but also other items that appeared to be stolen from the same stores.
Ultimately, Pollara was "caught red-handed," Kelly said, as he attempted to leave the Hobby Lobby with the pencil set and paint brushes stuffed down his pants.
Assistant Public Defender Mark Lyon told Judge Liam Brennan, who is presiding over the bench trial, that he doesn't believe the state will be able to prove the charges.
Brennan also has twice warned Pollara, who has a history of loud, profane outbursts in court, that he will be placed in a soundproof booth for the remainder of the trial if he speaks out again.