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Judge: Man lied in legal battle over wooden motorcycle

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The broken wooden motorcycle.[]

A Will County judge found that a man once suspected of murder lied in court when he claimed he spent insurance proceeds that he collected over a destroyed wooden motorcycle that’s been at the center of a legal battle.

On June 12, Will County Judge John Anderson determined Julio Montenegro had given false and misleading testimony in a trial between him and Ruben Franchini over ownership of a hand-carved wooden motorcycle that Franchini said belonged to him.

Anderson ruled Montenegro had to pay Franchini $38,000.

“This thing was hugely personal to my client,” Franchini’s attorney John Schrock said of the motorcycle. “He had it in his laundromat and it was kind of an object of affection not only with him, but people in the community.”

Franchini said he was given the motorcycle because of the work he did for people and it “recognized me for who I was and who I am.”

Montengero’s attorney Brian Conneranweig failed to return calls Tuesday.

Montenegro was once the primary suspect in the death of his girlfriend, Melissa Mitchell, 31, who was repeatedly stabbed to death in 2005.

In 2009, Franchini obtained the motorcycle from Joe Bruknis, former owner of Papa Joe’s, who gave it to him as a way of repaying a loan, according to court records. Montenegro had suggested Bruknis offer Franchini the motorcycle when he could not repay several thousands of dollars Franchini had lent him.

The motorcycle was relocated from Papa Joe’s to a laundromat owned by Franchini. In November 2017, Montenegro filed a lawsuit against Franchini to take ownership of the motorcycle and a court order was eventually issued to prevent both parties from touching or moving it.

However, Montenegro took the motorcycle to his garage where it was “mysteriously destroyed,” according to court records. Montenegro submitted a claim to his homeowner’s insurance policy and received $37,000, which was $1,000 less than what the insurer valued it at.

Montenegro then claimed in court that he already spent the insurance proceeds when Franchini asked to escrow the funds from the insurance claim. Anderson ruled Montenegro’s representations were “false and misleading.”