Judge Doubts Real Owners of Stolen Car, Dismisses Vehicle Theft Charges Against Man Who Took Car – Twice

By Genesis Guzman

SACRAMENTO, CA – Sacramento County Superior Court Judge Geoffrey A. Goodman Wednesday – noting the prosecution couldn’t prove who actually owned a twice-stolen car – dropped two charges of theft against Dauda Iliya, who took what he said was his vehicle two days in a row.

On June 8, 2020 Dauda Iliya was arrested for allegedly unlawfully stealing a maroon Toyota Scion xB. He was booked and released that same day.

The next day, on June 9, he allegedly stole the same vehicle from the same owners and sold it on a second hand selling application.

Deputy Matthew McCune was the officer who arrested Iliya the first time of the alleged car robberies. He was called as a witness by Deputy District Defendant Saron Tesfai.

The deputy said he saw the reported vehicle and conducted a traffic stop on that vehicle. There was one person in the car, the driver, and he recognized him as the suspect of the car theft reported by the owners on June 3.

The owners that had reported the stolen vehicle had provided video surveillance to the police of a subject, matching the defendant’s description, taking their car. However McCune himself had never seen the video to confirm that he is the defendant, he was solely relying on another deputy.

He placed the suspect under arrest and booked him that same day in Sacramento County jail – the owners of the car then came to retrieve it that same day.

During the defendant’s cross examination, done by attorney Russell Wyatt, McCune testified that when he inspected the car he had found no malfunctions with the vehicle including no broken parts, tools to start the car, or signs that the car had been hotwired. It in fact appeared to have been started with the factory key. He also searched Iliya and didn’t recall finding anything.

When he was being arrested, Iliya told the officer that he had purchased the car and had the documents to prove it in a safe place. However, when McCune asked him several times if they could take him to where the documents were, the defendant stated that he would talk to his attorney.

Officer Mike French said his investigation showed the first time the car was stolen the alleged owner had started up the car to warm it up in front of her house and returned to her home. But when she came back out the car had been taken, meaning the keys were in the ignition when it was taken.

French added, she had video surveillance in her home that she reviewed and gave to the police. She saw a silver 4 door car drive up to her home where a male exited that car and got into her car and left.

On June 8 she recovered her vehicle, and on June 9 she saw that her car outside her residence had been stolen again and reported it. She again provided another surveillance video that she had taken, where it appeared to be the same suspect as the one in the first robbery.

The owner told French she later saw an advertisement of her car being sold on OfferUP, an application where people can offer to sell their belongings, that she did not post.

French talked to the husband, who was an auto mechanic, and he said that when the car was recovered the first time on June 8 he was positive that there had been improvements made to the vehicle that he did not do. A few new tires were installed and some other intricate work had been done. During the second robbery he said that both keys were accounted for.

The victims believed that the same perpetrator had stolen their car. French did a follow up investigation to determine when the first suspect was booked and released from the Sacramento County jail in order to make sure if it was possible or not for Iliya to have committed the crime. French found that he had been released just before the second theft .

The officer reviewed both surveillance videos, and saw that both men appeared to have similar size, height, and appearance and they both appeared to have used a key to get in.

The car was recovered June 12, but the occupants were two unknown occupants who reported they had bought the car that same day. They found the car on OfferUp and after negotiations they bought the car, met up with the seller, and picked up the car.

The buyers said that during the sale the seller wanted to prove that it was a legitimate sale and showed him his driver’s license and told him to take a picture. French saw the picture of the driver’s license and identified it to be Iliya, by comparing the photo in the DMV database for Iliya to the photo on the driver’s license. The buyers also showed the officer the bill of sale.

French was then cross-examined by defense attorney Wyatt, and testified that he never ran a vehicle history on the car, found no eye witness on the theft of June 9 besides the video, and never saw the listing on OfferUp himself and did not follow up.

French did have a screenshot of the listing provided by the buyers and that he found there to be significance to the listing because of the phone number the buyer used to contact the seller. It was a matched Iliya’s number.

He proved this because after Iliya was released from custody on June 8 he filed a complaint with the sheriff’s department complaining that when he was arrested some of his property wasn’t returned. He was arguing that his car hadn’t been returned, he believed that the car was his own personal property.

One of the sergeants investigating the complaint needed to contact Iliya and so he provided a phone number that matched the one used to sell the car. When French talked to the buyers they had the sales receipt and a pink slip with an unknown third party’s name that was stated to be the registered owner.

On the back of the pink slip Iliya’s name and address were printed, as well as the date of June 3, 2020 but French did no further investigation.

The court questioned whether the DDA had any proof that the alleged owners filing the stolen car report owned the car, other than their word, and if there were legal documents.

The judge said the only so-called proof was what the owners reported. Goodman hesitantly stated that he didn’t believe that there was any affirmative evidence that they were the owners of the car but for the purposes of the hearing there was sufficient circumstantial evidence that they claimed to be owners.

The court then brought up a second concern regarding the pink slip document that stated the registered owner of the car as another unknown third party, to which no one followed up to contact and question about their car.

The judge allowed the DDA to take a delay or a recess to clarify this confusion or call upon a witness again. DDA Tesfai choose to call Officer French again and he ask him a few more questions, regarding whether French asked the owners if it was their car and if they had their pink slip. They said they lost it.

Judge Goodman then asked the defense that assuming the defendant was the registered owner or the car at the time of the arrest and the car was given back to the complainants how was it that the defendant was in possession of the car a second time after.

Wyatt then responded that the defendant was just taking back what was legally his.

The judge finally dismissed the charges due to “significant confusion about who the owner of the vehicle is.”

Goodman believed it to be a “failure of proof” on the DDA’s part. Stating that Tesfai had been gave an opportunity to “take some time to develop but you just wanted to ask the officer a couple more questions and I don’t think that resolved the issue in the court’s mind.”

About The Author

Genesis Guzman is a sophmore at UC Davis, majoring in English and Political Science. She is from Los Angeles, CA and hopes to attend law school in the future.

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