A couple that recently moved out of Forest Park has filed a federal lawsuit claiming their prominent next-door neighbors conspired with the Forest Park Police Department to harass them and that the harassment eventually drove them out of their Elgin Avenue home.
Gladys Perez and her husband, Miguel Magallanes, are suing Park District of Forest Park Commissioner Eric Entler and his wife Village Council Commissioner Rachell Entler, the village of Forest Park, parking enforcement officers Nick Treantafeles and Francis Lane, and police officers Roberto Salas, Nicholas Defors, and Young Lee, claiming false arrest, abuse of process, conspiracy to violate civil rights, infliction of emotional distress, and trespass to property for arresting Perez and issuing numerous tickets to vehicles owned by plaintiffs during the last two years.
The plaintiffs moved out of their approximately 900-square-foot home in the 1000 block of Elgin Avenue in June after stopping mortgage payments and allowing the home to be foreclosed upon.
“They were basically chased out of their home by the police,” said Nicolas Albukerk, the attorney who filed the lawsuit on behalf of Perez and Magallanes. “The bottom line is that they were frightened out of their home.”
Magallanes is an independent tow truck driver and often had numerous vehicles parked in his driveway which is just inches away from the Entlers’ home.
“[The Entlers] were furious that my client would park all his trucks,” Albukerk said. “We have a video of Eric Entler literally screaming at my client.”
The lawsuit claims that the Entlers believed all the trucks parked in the driveway next to their home was interfering with their attempts to sell or rent out their home.
Lawyers for the defendants denied the allegations.
“Mr. Entler denies any wrongdoing and we look forward to clearing his name in court,” said Austin Zimmer, who is representing Eric Entler. Zimmer serves as the president of the Forest Park Zoning Board of Appeals.
The attorney representing Rachell Entler, the police officers and the village also denied the allegations without going into any detail.
“We deny the allegations; we’re going to fight the case,” said Gail Reich, an associate at the Northbrook law firm of O’Halloran, Kosoff, Geitner & Cook.
Albukerk recently filed a motion to amend his lawsuit to add Rachell Entler as a defendant. He has already amended the complaint once to add Magallanes as a plaintiff. The first two complaints listed an incorrect address for the plaintiffs.
The complaint claims that Perez was arrested for aggravated battery on the morning of Feb. 5, 2015 after Treantafeles claimed that Perez spit on him after Treantafeles issued four tickets to vehicles parked in the defendant’s driveway. Albukerk claims that Perez was arrested and placed in a Forest Park jail cell. After processing and questioning, Perez was released after about 2½ hours at the police station and issued a ticket for disorderly conduct. Albukerk claims that Perez was arrested because Treantafeles was angry that Perez was taking video of him on her smart phone as he was issuing tickets.
“She should not have been arrested,” Albukerk said. “It’s not illegal to videotape or to audiotape somebody in public, especially when they are doing something you believe to be illegal.”
Albukerk said that a cellphone video shows Treantafeles was not spit upon or even spit at.
“We have a video of the actual arrest; we have an audio recording of the officer saying, ‘she spit on me’,” Albukerk said. “You can hear the individual crunching of each little movement of each toe against that toe and you don’t hear anyone spitting.”
According to Albukerk’s complaint, the Forest Park police issued 43 tickets to vehicles owned by Magallanes or Perez from Sept. 4, 2014 through Feb. 15, 2015. According to the complaint, the ticketing of vehicles parked at the plaintiffs’ home continued into 2016. Vehicles ticketed include a Ford tow truck, a Chevrolet Carryall, a GMC four-wheel drive, a Mitsubishi four door, and a Lincoln four door. The tickets were mostly for the prohibited parking of a commercial vehicle in a residential area. Forest Park municipal ordinances prohibit the parking of more than one commercial vehicle on any lot in a residential district.
“Over a couple of years, it’s amazing, the police just ticketing them for everything and anything, coming on to the property,” Albukerk said. “The big question is whether it’s legal to come onto somebody’s private property to issue tickets and whether or not it’s illegal to park a tow truck there.”
Albukerk conceded that many vehicles were often parked on his clients’ driveway.
“There were a lot of vehicles on the property,” Albukerk said.
The time and cost of contesting tickets caused Magallanes to lose business and the couple decided to stop paying their mortgage so they could move out of Forest Park.
“They’re not wealthy to start with and they’re paying for lawyers and they’re paying fees and fines, they’re trying to fight all this. They can’t, so they just decide to take whatever money they can save up and move,” Albukerk said. “They basically just stopped paying their mortgage so they could have the money to move somewhere else. They abandoned the place basically. They were sick and tired and scared.”
The lawsuit does not request a specific amount of damages but asks for compensatory and punitive damages. Damage claims in federal lawsuit must exceed $75,000, Albukerk said.
A settlement is a possibility.
“They would like to be compensated for this horrendous harassment, underhanded harassment, that they received,” Albukerk said of his clients. “They just want to be fairly compensated and move on with their life.”
Reich, who said she was in the early stages of reviewing the lawsuit, said that settling a case is always a possibility.
“It’s something we’re willing to explore,” Reich said. “It has to come with reasonableness from both sides.”
This article has been changed to correct the name of attorney Gail Reich.