Prosecutors: Cab driver wanted to hire a hit man

Tribune reporter

A Chicago cab driver tried to hire a hit man to kill someone who owed him money, Cook County prosecutors charged.

Saleem Qureshi, 57, wanted the 38-year-old target dead because he was still owed $26,000 that he had paid to bail the victim out of jail on drug charges and hire a lawyer for him in January, prosecutors said.

Qureshi became upset over the last several months that he had not been paid back, and he began telling a witness in September that he wanted to hire someone to kill the victim, Assistant State’s Attorney Morgan Creppel said. The witness contacted police.

At a meeting Saturday in a Jewel supermarket at Roosevelt Road and Wabash Avenue, Qureshi offered to pay $5,000 "plus a tip" for the murder to an undercover officer posing as a hit man, according to Creppel.

The two met again Monday in Qureshi's cab in the same parking lot, and Qureshi gave the officer a copy of the victim's arrest report – which contained a booking photo – and $100 as a down payment.

"The defendant agreed to pay another $2,000 an hour before the murder and the remaining $3,500 once it was complete," Creppel said. The murder was supposed to take place Wednesday night, he said.

Police captured the discussion on undercover audio and videotape and then arrested Qureshi. During a struggle, a large bag of cocaine fell from his waistband, according to prosecutors and police reports.

Qureshi, of Hanover Park, was charged with solicitation of murder for hire and cocaine possession. Creppel said Qureshi is a Pakistani national who is in the country illegally. He told the undercover officer he has "very wealthy family members" in Pakistan, making him a major flight risk, Creppel said.

His court-appointed attorney said Qureshi is an "independent cab driver" who has been in the U.S. for 31 years and holds dual citizenship.

Judge Maria Kuriakos Ciesil ordered Qureshi to surrender any passports and provide information about the source of any funds he uses to post bond. She set his bail at $1 million.

Court records show Qureshi was driving a cab with a Globe Taxi affiliation when he was arrested. He holds a valid chauffeur license with the city and has no criminal background, according to city and court records.

The alleged target was found not guilty of cocaine trafficking at a trial in September, court records show.

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