An Indiana man recently found himself in hot water over a license plate snafu that linked him to a Chicago gang member and drugs.
Jim Barrick’s story started with a surprising letter from the City of Chicago informing him that his vehicle was in a city impound lot.
"Sure enough, it had my license plate number on it,” the Granger, Indiana man said of the letter.
It informed Barrick that it would cost him $3,000 to get the 2004 gray Infiniti, with license plate 489W, back in his possession.
It may have been his plate, but it wasn't his car. Similar stories have come from Mokena, where a resident there received bogus parking tickets stemming from his vanity license plate. There was also the tale of an Oak Park nun with a personalized plate who was wrongly accused of racking up thousands of dollars in parking tickets in New York.
Still, what Barrick read next set off alarm bells.
"It said there was unlawful drugs in the vehicle," Barrick recalled.
Barrick said his car, a 2005 PT Cruiser, was parked right in front of his home at the time of the alleged offense. Anxious to distance himself from the mystery car and the drugs, Barrick said he made dozens of calls to the phone numbers on the letter, to no avail. Next, he dialed the pound directly.
"I tried to tell him it wasn't my car because my car is sitting in front of my house," Barrick said.
An employee at the pound told him simply "not to worry."
"I said, 'No I will not not worry about it because that letter said there were unlawful drugs in the vehicle and that the charge to get it out of impound was $3,000,'" Barrick explained.
So whose car was in the pound? Whose drugs? And how could any of it be tied to Jim Barrick? Unable to get answers or clear his name, Barrick reached out to NBC 5 Investigates.
Through a Freedom of Information Act request, NBC 5 Investigates learned Chicago police pulled over the gray Infiniti for allegedly blowing through a South Side stop sign. Inside, cops reported finding 20 grams of marijuana and convicted felon Xavier Jackson. According to police reports, Jackson is a Black P. Stone gang member, out on parole, with an extensive rap sheet, who was quoted as saying, "Hey that’s my weed. Don’t take the car. I got 20 grams in my bag."
That quote made the report. It’s what didn’t make it that ultimately linked the unlikely pair.
The Chicago Police Department confirms the officers who pulled over Xavier Jackson failed to record the license plate correctly on the incident report. Officers left out one crucial word – "dealer" – indicating his car has a specialty plate. Barrick’s plate reads 489W. The plate on the impounded car: 489W dealer
"Somebody's not doing their job," Barrick fumed. "I mean it's a simple thing to write digits down on a piece of paper."
It was a small detail that caused Barrick big problems. After our inquiry, the city confirmed it cleared his name and any connection to the Chicago gangs and drugs that momentarily interrupted his small-town tranquility.
"I just want peace of mind to drive down the road and not get pulled over and then they think I'm the owner of that car and take me to the hoosegow," Barrick said.