Recent TF6 Headlines

16 arrested, including 14 ISU students, in sweeping drug bust
by Edith Brady-Lunny and Michele Steinbacher, The Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON -- Fourteen Illinois State University students and two others face felony drug charges as a result by a sweep by state and local police.

The sweep involving multiple police agencies working together represents one of the largest round-ups of alleged drug offenders in ISU history, said ISU Police Chief Ron Swan. While most offenses involved possessing and/or selling marijuana on or near campus, other drugs were involved as well, police said.

“It takes a number of individuals involved in the drug enterprise off the streets and it sends a clear and strong message that the use, misuse and dealing of drugs on the ISU campus will be dealt with seriously and with great tenacity,” said the chief.

Seven defendants were in court for bond hearings Tuesday afternoon and six others were released earlier after posting bond. Three more students were arrested Tuesday on drug-related charges, said police.

The arrests were part of ongoing investigations into drug sales by Task Force 6, a multijurisdictional narcotics unit, according to Ben Halloran, Task Force 6 commander.

Swan said police met recently to discuss a large group of cases put together after a series of investigations lasting “various lengths of time — some months and some less than months.” Although there may have been some connections among the suspects, they were not working together in one drug conspiracy, police said.

Police had informed Illinois State University leaders that some type of police activity would occur on campus Monday, said ISU spokesman Jay Groves. But authorities didn’t offer details, he said.

Groves said ISU constantly reminds students of the university’s policy regarding drugs.

“It isn’t tolerated,” he said.

“Besides the legal ramifications, involvement with drugs also may lead to the university’s student judicial process,” and ultimately to suspension or expulsion from ISU, he said.

Students at the Normal campus are informed of the dangers of drugs and alcohol abuse and about the legal issues surrounding it, said Groves.

Throughout the year, ISU sends other information to students in residence halls and off-campus apartments. The campus also leads programs on the topic in the residence halls, sororities and fraternities, and at the student health services office, he said.

Beginning this fall, incoming students also will be required to complete an online course on dangers of drug and alcohol, he said.

Family members of the defendants and other students filled the McLean County Law and Justice Center courtroom Tuesday for the bond hearings conducted via a video hookup with the county jail.

Bonds were lowered for six of the seven defendants by Associate Judge Casey Costigan.

Steven Albert, 19, of Channahon successfully argued that he qualified for a $20,000 personal recognizance bond on marijuana delivery charges. Upcoming final exams and a clean criminal history were among his arguments for release without posting a cash bond.

A $50,000 cash bond requested for Daniel Penney, 22, of Normal, remained unchanged, however. He faces a Class X felony charge of selling drugs near a public park or school.

Although police said some of the drug activity took place within 1,000 feet of a junior high school, the school and its students were not involved.

Police agencies involved in making the arrests included Illinois State University Police Department, McLean County Sheriff’s Department, U.S. Marshals Fugitive Task Force Response and Illinois State Police. 

Those arrested, the charges, and the bond they were required to post are:

  • Troy Agusto, 25, Lindenhurst, delivery of marijuana, $2,000*
  • Steven Albert, 19, Channahon, delivery of marijuana, $20,000 personal recognizance bond
  • David Augustine, 20, Charleston, delivery of marijuana, $2,000
  • James Carlson, 19, Normal, delivery of marijuana, $2,000
  • Marc Dodero, 21, Naperville, delivery of marijuana and delivery of Ecstasy near a school, $500
  • Todd Fanning, 21, Green Oaks, delivery of marijuana, $2,000
  • Laura Fantasia, 19, Orland Park, delivery of marijuana, $100
  • Derrick Heard, 26, Island Lake, delivery of marijuana near a school, $1,000*
  • Michael Johnson, 19, Rochester, possession with intent to deliver marijuana, $3,000
  • Michael Kavanaugh, 31, Evergreen Park, delivery of marijuana, amphetamines and hydrocodone, $5,000
  • Brad McKay, 21, Inverness, delivery of marijuana, $500
  • David Michael, 22, Lake Zurich, delivery of marijuana, $300
  • Daniel Penney, 22, Normal, delivery of cocaine near a school or park, $50,000
  • Tyler Riggin, 19, Downers Grove, delivery of marijuana and delivery of the drug at a dorm (Watterson Towers), $2,000
  • Ryan Stone, 22, Hinsdale, delivery of marijuana, $2,000
  • Keith Vallera, 21, Woodridge, delivery of marijuana, $300


Man loses constitutional argument; nets 12 years in prison for pot
by Edith Brady-Lunny, The Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON — A Chicago man who lost an argument in court Thursday that Illinois’ most serious marijuana possession laws are unconstitutional was sentenced to 12 years in prison for possessing about 30 pounds of the drug.

Ryan Yoselowitz, 28, pleaded guilty in October to possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana, a Class X felony that carries a sentence of six to 30 years in prison. Yoselowitz initially fled a traffic stop in May on Interstate 55. When he was apprehended, police found 20 pounds of marijuana in glass jars in his car.

Yoselowitz’s lawyer, Steven Muslin, filed a motion in January to declare sentencing rules unconstitutional based upon a shift in public sentiment about the legalization of marijuana and the lack of harm caused by the substance.

Defense witness Dr. Christopher Fichtner, who is a former director of mental health for the Illinois Department of Human Services, testified that “the problem of marijuana abuse is greatly exaggerated.” The psychiatrist who works at a California clinic admitted that delivery of more than 20 pounds of marijuana in a community could be harmful.

The Illinois attorney general’s office and local prosecutors opposed the defense arguments that the prison term for high-end marijuana possession is in the same category as serious violent crimes.

In denying the defense motion, Judge Robert Freitag said “this is an ongoing public debate” and an issue “the Legislature and not the court should decide.”

Yoselowitz’s lifestyle was the focus of police testimony offered before the sentencing decision.

“It was the most extravagant place I’ve ever executed a search warrant in my career,” said Illinois State Police Sgt. Earl Candler.

In the Chicago apartment the defendant rented for $2,800, police found a 60-inch television and expensive furniture along with about 13 pounds of marijuana and a small amount of cocaine.

Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve illustrated Yoselowitz’s drug business with a chart showing several customers — including one who owed the Chicago man more than $250,000.

Horve asked for a 24-year sentence, calling Yoselowitz a large-scale marijuana dealer who was “living large.”

Muslin sought a sentence closer to the six-year minimum. He said the failure of a currency exchange business owned by his client’s mother was one of the reasons Yoselowitz became involved in the drug trade.

In remarks he offered to Freitag before the sentence, Yoselowitz acknowledged he had made a mistake.

“I can safely say I’ve learned that what I did was wrong. It’s not so much that I sold weed, it’s that I broke the law,” said Yoselowitz.

Freitag denied a defense request to allow Yoselowitz to remain free on $75,000 bond pending an appeal.

Clinton drug seizure 1-1-10

New Year’s Day Brings Major Drug Bust In Clinton
The Clinton Journal

Local law enforcement spent New Year's Day making one of the biggest drug busts in the City of Clinton's recent history.

During Monday night's City Council meeting, Clinton Police Chief Mike Reidy informed the public that his department, along with the DeWitt County Sheriff's Department and Illinois State Police Task Force 6, arrested a Clinton couple following the discovery of an indoor cannabis growing operation at a Clinton residence.  Chief Reidy says officers responded to the home in the 1700 Block of East North Street on burglary call, but soon discovered the drug operation.

Officers arrested 24-year old Jayson Rogers and 21-year old Crystal Williams, both of Clinton, on drug-related charges.  Both were incarcerated at the DeWitt County Jail following their arrest.  Chief Reidy notes officers seized over thirty cannabis plants, as well as cocaine, ecstasy, numerous unlawful prescription medications, and a small amount of explosives from the residence.

Law enforcement officials encourage anyone with information regarding illegal drugs to contact the Clinton Police Department at 935-9441 or the Task Force 6 tipline at

Heyworth man convicted of conspiring to deliver cocaine in rural communities

by Edith Brady-Lunny, The Pantagraph

BLOOMINGTON -- A jury convicted a Heyworth man Friday of conspiring to deliver cocaine to residents in several rural communities but acquitted him of possession with intent to deliver the drug.

Marvin Umstattd, 46, testified Thursday that he had no role in the crack cocaine business spearheaded by Devon Thomas, an Indiana man serving a life sentence in federal prison for drug conspiracy.

“I’ve never sold drugs in my life,” Umstattd told the jury during his testimony.

A jury deliberated about 10 hours over two days before returning guilty verdicts for unlawful delivery and conspiracy to deliver cocaine.

He faces six to 30 years when he is sentenced Dec. 1.

Umstattd, formerly of LeRoy, was among 15 defendants charged last year with providing customers and making sales for Thomas.

Defense lawyer Stephanie Wong said in closing arguments that several prosecution witnesses, including Thomas, have strong motives to lie. Thomas could see a reduction in his life sentence if he cooperates with authorities in the trials of co-conspirators, said Wong.

“The issue is you’ve got a bunch of liars. They have everything to gain,” said Wong.

Umstattd was the only defendant in the drug case with a full-time job, she said.

He admitted that he used crack cocaine for about a decade and purchased about $100 worth of the drug from Thomas on regular basis starting in the fall of 2006 and continuing until the spring of 2007 when police broke up the cocaine network.

The drug sales to customers in Farmer City, Gibson City, Paxton, Melvin and other rural towns netted Thomas at least $160,000 a month, according to the drug dealer’s testimony.

Assistant Attorney General Grant Swinger told the jury in closing arguments that Umstattd helped Thomas forge the profitable drug network.

Public Safety Court summary

Drug case — Two Bloomington residents accused of possessing more than 15 pounds of marijuana and 3 ounces of cocaine must post $100,000 each to be released on drug-related charges.

Perry “Al” Detherage, 48, and Shawn Koch, 50, both of the 900 block of South Wright Street, each face charges of possession with intent to deliver cocaine and marijuana. They also are charged with possession of both drugs.

Police searched the Wright Street home as part of an investigation into large-scale drug operations, according to a prosecution statement read in court Friday. Police found about 5,000 grams of marijuana in a duffel bag, more than 86 grams of cocaine and supplies for packaging drugs, said court documents.

A Sept. 26 arraignment is set for Koch and Detherage.

Police: 50-year-old man grew more than 50 pot plants at his home

A 50-year-old man was growing more than 50 marijuana plants hidden in his family’s home before his arrest Tuesday night, police said Wednesday.

Robert L. Reinbrecht of Chiswick Circle in Bloomington, was jailed Wednesday in lieu of posting $2,000 on charges of unlawful possession of marijuana plants and unlawful possession of marijuana. Ben Halloran, commander of the multijurisdictional narcotics unit Task Force 6, said the plants were found hidden behind a false wall in the home Reinbrecht shares with his wife and children.

Halloran said the arrest followed investigation of a tip. He said Reinbrecht resisted police and suffered a minor cut in his arrest, and he didn’t divulge anything to officers about the growing operation.

Man receives 35-year sentence on drug charges
By Jean Noellsch, The News Gazette

PAXTON – Robert Martin Schaub, 48, of Gibson City has received a 35-year sentence for his part in a drug conspiracy that state law enforcement officials termed "the largest cocaine operation in Ford County history."

Schaub previously rejected a plea agreement that offered a 22-year jail term. His case was the first to go to trial among the 17 defendants in Operation Pyramid, an Illinois State Police Task Force 6 investigation that targeted mostly rural illegal drug activity in Ford, Champaign, DeWitt, McLean and Vermilion counties.
Eleven of the 17 indicted have already pleaded guilty.

Schaub was convicted Jan. 17 by a Ford County jury of three Class X felonies, including criminal drug conspiracy and drug trafficking.

In sentencing Schaub on Tuesday, Ford County Circuit Court Judge Steve Pacey said that although someone else introduced Schaub to (admitted conspiracy leader) Devon Thomas, testimony showed that Schaub "willingly became a significant participant" in the conspiracy.

Illinois Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock asked for a minimum 40-year sentence, saying
Schaub was "the No. 2" person in the cocaine ring hierarchy.

Hoppock said another aggravating factor was evidence that Schaub's minor child was present during some drug deals.

Schaub also has a criminal record that included serving one year in Kentucky for a 1982 robbery.
Illinois State Police Sgt. Eric Candler of Task Force 6 testified that the value of drugs exceeded $1 million.
Defense attorney Steven A. Amjad of Champaign asked that his client receive a 15-year sentence.
As a mitigating factor, he said no guns were found on Schaub or at his house. Amjad said the only gun Schaub was involved with was the one Thomas "pointed at his head."

Schaub, who did not testify during his trial, offered the judge reasons for a lesser sentence. He said he "had never caused harm to anyone" and denied any involvement in the criminal drug conspiracy.  But in the presentencing report, Ford County probation officer Rocky Marron said Schaub "is out of touch with the reality of his situation and has been so since drugs took a hold of his life."

11 people in task force cases pleaded guilty
As for other Operation Pyramid defendants, 11 of the 17 charged already have pleaded guilty according to Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Ben Halloran, Task Force 6 commander.

Ten have entered guilty pleas in circuit courts in DeWitt, Ford and McLean counties.  Their sentences have ranged from nine to 20 years, with the majority receiving a sentence of more than 15 years.

Defendants and their plea agreements include Amanda Nelson of Gibson City, 20 years; Loren Ford of LeRoy, 20 years; Stacy Kauth of Farmer City, 20 years; Kevin Priest of Farmer City, 18 years; Christopher Shortridge of Farmer City, 17 years; Christina Roe of Farmer City, 16 years; Tina Mattingly of LeRoy, 13 years; Kimberly Andres of Farmer City, 13 years; William Isaacs of Farmer City, 10 years; and Vickie Isaacs of Farmer City, nine years.

Conspiracy leader and former Indiana resident Devon Thomas pleaded guilty in June in federal court and is serving a life sentence due in part to two prior convictions. His cooperation in providing testimony against members of his drug ring has resulted in what officials admit is an unusual "top-down" form of arrests.  As a result, Halloran says, there are still more defendants who will be indicted before the operation is completed.

Defendants awaiting trial or other disposition of drug charges include Kristyn Bingham of Colfax, Angela Chaudoin of Normal, Jennifer Cooley of Farmer City and Thomas Misch and Marvin Umstattd of LeRoy.

Police from LeRoy, Gibson City and Farmer City, along with Ford, DeWitt and McLean County sheriff's departments are part of the multijurisdictional effort.

Will Brumleve of the Paxton Record contributed to this story.

Gibson City man gets 35 years in prison for drug conspiracy

NORMAL — The co-owner of a Normal swim school pleaded guilty Thursday to possessing more than 50 marijuana plants found by police in July in the basement of the business.

Robbie Morger, 43, was arrested after a police task force found an indoor marijuana-growing operation at Happy Splashes Swim School.

Morger said after his arrest that he used marijuana to relieve the pain of rheumatoid arthritis. He said the marijuana was for his use only.

In addition to the plants, police said they also seized several pieces of plant growing equipment in the basement of the building at One Normal Plaza. A pound of marijuana was found by police at Morger’s home located in the 1000 block of North Maple Street, Normal, police said.

A charge of unlawful possession of marijuana was dismissed as part of the plea agreement. An April 4 sentencing date is set.

Area woman gets 13 years for drug conspiracy
CLINTON -- A Farmer City woman was sentenced to 13 years in prison Monday for her role in a multi-county drug conspiracy.

Kimberly Andres, 40, pleaded guilty to criminal drug conspiracy. In addition to the prison term, a $90,000 street value fine and a $3,000 felony conviction fine were assessed against Andres when she appeared in DeWitt County Circuit Court.

Andres is among 16 people arrested last year as part of Operation Pyramid, an investigation headed by Task Force 6, a multi-jurisdictional police unit.

Ten of the 16 defendants have pleaded guilty in state courts. The main target of the investigation, Devon Thomas, 37, of Indiana, is serving a life sentence in federal prison on charges related to the cocaine ring.

Andres is eligible for day-for-day credit on her sentence.

A March 3 sentencing hearing is scheduled for Martin Schaub, the Ford County defendant convicted in January of criminal drug conspiracy, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and conspiracy to commit controlled substance trafficking.

Man convicted in drug ring trial


9 face charges in drug sting

BLOOMINGTON -- Police arrested nine people in connection with crack cocaine sales Wednesday, including a man who was collecting money for charity at the time of his arrest.

Task Force 6 Sgt. Earl Candler said those arrested, whose ages range from 21 to 60, were among 18 people investigated in the last five months in Operation Silent Night. Six were previously in the jail on other charges, two were still wanted and one is expected to turn himself in to police, he said.

At least 14 are from Bloomington, one from is from Normal, and towns weren’t available on the other three.

Officers with the task force, which is a multi-jurisdiction narcotics investigation unit, U.S. marshals and Bloomington police started arresting people in the case about 7 a.m. Wednesday.

Richard W. Girdler, 52, and John W. Duginski, 49, both of the 400 block of East Monroe Street, Ernest L. Williams, 46, of the 300 block of East Jefferson Street, and Brett N. Lane, 45, of the 1000 block of West Taylor Street were in court Wednesday on charges of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance in the case. All addresses were in Bloomington.

Candler said all but Girdler were accused of delivering crack cocaine, but he didn’t immediately know what drug Girdler is accused of selling.

Sara J. Carter, 21, was arrested on charges of cocaine sales, but didn’t appear in court Wednesday.


Farmer City woman sentenced for criminal drug conspiracy

CLINTON — A 31-year-old Farmer City woman was sentenced to 16 years in prison Wednesday for criminal drug conspiracy related to a multicounty drug network disrupted by police earlier this year.

Christina Roe wiped away tears as the terms of her plea agreement with prosecutors were read by Judge Stephen Peters.

Roe was among 17 people indicted in May by a statewide grand jury in connection with Operation Pyramid, which was conducted by Task Force 6, multiagency police unit.

She pleaded guilty Wednesday to the drug conspiracy charge.

A $90,000 street value fine and a $3,000 Class X felony conviction fine also were levied against Roe.

Roe’s part in the cocaine ring began when she met Devon Thomas, the organizer of the drug network, and began selling crack cocaine for him, according to a statement read in court by Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock.

Roe was given drugs in exchange for helping Thomas, he said. Police seized about $1,000 cash and cocaine in Roe’s home, authorities have said.

Thomas, 37, of Fortville, Ind., was sentenced to life in prison on federal drug charges, but he is expected to be given credit for his cooperation with authorities in the drug case.

Hoppock noted in court that Roe will be eligible for day-for-day credit for good behavior on her prison sentence.

Roe is the sixth of 16 defendants to enter plea agreements in the case.

DeWitt County Assistant State’s Attorney Andrew Killian is assisting Hoppock with the DeWitt County prosecutions.

The drug sales took place in several small communities throughout DeWitt, McLean, Champaign, Ford and Vermillion Counties.


LeRoy man caught in drug sweept gets 20 years

BLOOMINGTON — A 37-year-old LeRoy man was sentenced to 20 years in prison Friday for criminal drug conspiracy.

Loren Ford was one of 15 people arrested in May as part of a sweep of accused drug dealers who authorities say brought large amounts of cocaine into Illinois from Indiana and other states. Ford also was ordered to pay a $90,000 street value fine.

Operation Pyramid was conducted by Task Force 6, which is a multi-agency drug enforcement team, and several area police departments. The arrests followed a six-month investigation into drug activity in rural areas.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock is the lead prosecutor for the drug cases.

To date, five of the 16 defendants have been sentenced. Devon Thomas, 37, of Fortville, Ind., was sentenced to life in prison recently for possession with intent to deliver more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking.

The arrests were made after indictments by a statewide grand jury.

Man gets 46 years in prison for selling drugs

By Noelle McGee, The News Gazette

DANVILLE – A longtime East Central Illinois drug dealer on Thursday was sentenced to 46 years in prison for selling several thousand dollars worth of drugs in Vermilion and Champaign counties in 2004.

Vermilion County Circuit Judge Claudia Anderson sentenced Steven Couch, 43, of Mahomet, to two consecutive 26-year terms, each for one count of unlawful delivery of cocaine. She also sentenced him to a concurrent 20-year term for a third count of unlawful delivery of cocaine, and a concurrent five-year term for one count of unlawful delivery of marijuana.

Couch was credited for having served 115 days behind bars. Under current laws, he could serve just under half of his sentence.

"You have a history of riding the same horse in your criminality," Anderson told Couch, adding she was troubled by his long list of prior convictions and the amount of drugs involved in the case before her. She said a stiff penalty was needed to protect the public from Couch and to make peddlers "aware they have a lot to risk. The risk is more than money; it's their liberty."

Earlier, Couch told the judge that he was sorry for his criminal activity, which he blamed on a drug addiction, but not before attacking the prosecutor in the case. "I'm not the bad guy you're making me out to be," Couch told Matthew Hoppock, an assistant Illinois attorney general.

Later, Anderson said she doubted Couch's late show of remorse. "It's easy to find religion when you're really at the altar," she said.

Couch was indicted on the charges, as well as criminal drug conspiracy, in August 2005. The attorney general's office – which handled the case since the drug conspiracy involved activity in Vermilion and Champaign counties – accused him of selling about an ounce of cocaine to an undercover police officer for $1,950 on Sept. 16, 2004; 53.7 grams of cocaine to the officer for $2,000 on Sept. 27, 2004; and 51.6 grams of cocaine to the officer for $2,000 on Oct. 5, 2004. Prosecutors also said Couch sold the officer marijuana on one of those occasions.

A Vermilion County jury on June 1 found Couch guilty on all five counts.

The marijuana offense is a Class 3 felony, and the other four are Class X felonies. Couch could have received anywhere from 6 to 60 years in prison.

Vermilion County Public Defender Robert McIntire asked Anderson to hand down a minimal sentence. He argued that Couch was approached by law enforcement to get to his supplier and the supplier's supplier, and that his client was "not on the same level" as his supplier, who already is in prison on drug convictions.

But Hoppock told Anderson that Couch deserved a much stiffer sentence. For 28 years, the prosecutor said, the defendant peddled hundreds of pounds of illegal drugs and made thousands of dollars.

Couch "enjoyed the lifestyle of a drug dealer. Let him finish the life of a drug dealer. Let him die in prison," Hoppock said, adding he should not be allowed on the street peddling "poison" to the community.

He pointed to Thursday's testimony from the undercover officer, who said Couch told him he got 18 ounces of cocaine on Sept. 25, 2004, and had sold about 13 by the following Monday.

"That's an obscene amount ... even in Chicago," Hoppock said.

Hoppock added that Couch continued to sell drugs, even after he served a short prison sentence for a marijuana charge and when his drug supplier was facing 60 years in prison for drug charges. "His potential for rehabilitation is literally zero," Hoppock said.


Man gets life on federal cocaine charges

URBANA — An Indiana man who organized a cocaine trafficking ring in several central Illinois counties was sentenced to life in prison Thursday in federal court in Urbana.

Devon Thomas, 37, of Fortville, Ind., pleaded guilty to drug and weapons charges leveled against him as part of an investigation named “Operation Pyramid” by police. Thomas was arrested in April by Task Force 6 and federal drug agents. He pleaded guilty in June to possession with intent to deliver more than 50 grams of crack cocaine, possession of a firearm by a felon and possession of a firearm in relation to drug trafficking.

Thomas received life in prison plus 60 months on the drug charge. Additional terms totaling 15 years were handed down on the weapons charges, to be served concurrently with the life sentence.

Police found about 300 grams of a substance believed to be crack cocaine and about 30 grams of powder cocaine in an Urbana hotel room after Thomas’ arrest.

A statewide grand jury indicted 16 people in May as part of the drug trafficking ring. Most of the accused participants in the drug conspiracy have pleaded guilty and received prison terms. In August, a Normal woman was arrested on drug conspiracy counts as part of the ongoing investigation.

Police from LeRoy, Gibson City, Farmer City and the DeWitt and McLean County sheriff’s departments were involved in the investigation. Task Force 6 is a multi-agency police unit targeting drug activity in DeWitt, Living-ston and McLean counties.


Public Safety Summary, The Pantagraph

McLean County sheriff’s police found marijuana after searching the rural LeRoy residence of Keith Jackson, authorities said.

One-half to 1 pound of marijuana was found in glass jars and plastic bags, and 13 plants were found at the southeast edge of the residence at 3:30 p.m. Friday, police said.

Jackson arrived at his residence at 4:45 p.m. and was arrested by police. Jackson admitted to growing and selling the marijuana for at least two years, police said.

Jackson was charged with unlawfully possessing marijuana with the intent to deliver more than 30 grams but less than 500 grams, a Class 3 felony with a possible sentence of two to five years, the report said.

He also was charged with unlawfully possessing more than 30 grams but less than 50 grams of marijuana and unlawfully possessing more than five but less than 20 marijuana plants. Both charges are Class 4 felonies carrying potential sentences ranging from one to three years.

Jackson was in the McLean County Jail in lieu of posting $2,000.


Woman gets 20 years for role in drug ring

CLINTON -- A Farmer City woman arrested with 14 others in a multi-county cocaine ring was sentenced to 20 years in prison Monday.

Stacy Kauth, 38, was charged with conspiring and possession of cocaine and drug trafficking.

Task Force 6, a multi-agency drug enforcement team, started its investigation into a major cocaine trafficking operation last December.

Devon Thomas, who authorities believe to be the head of the network that imported significant amounts of cocaine into Illinois from Indiana, is set to appear in federal court for a plea hearing Sept. 6. Thomas, 37, of Fortville, Ind., is in federal custody.

Five of the 15 defendants indicted by a statewide grand jury in May remain in jail. The others have entered into plea agreements with the state. Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock is handling the prosecution of the drug cases.


Normal woman charged in cocaine sting

BLOOMINGTON -- A woman from Normal became the latest defendant Thursday in a multi-county sweep of cocaine distributors.

Angela R. Chaudoin, 30, faces charges of criminal drug conspiracy and possession of cocaine with intent to deliver. She must post $20,000 to be released from custody.

Chaudoin joins 16 other Central Illinois residents charged as part of an investigation titled “Operation Pyramid” by police. Task Force 6, a multi-agency police team investigating drug sales in rural areas, coordinated the investigation into drug transactions in DeWitt, McLean, Ford, Champaign and Vermillion counties.

The arrests involving the cocaine network began in April with the arrest of Devon Thomas, 37, of Fortville, Ind. Police seized about 300 grams of what appeared to be crack cocaine and 80 grams of powder cocaine from an Urbana hotel room after Thomas’ arrest.

The Indiana man pleaded guilty in June to federal drug and weapons charges. He will be sentenced Sept. 11.

Three other defendants have pleaded guilty in DeWitt County to drug counts related to “Operation Pyramid.” Amanda Nelson, 22, of Gibson City was given 22 years for criminal drug conspiracy; Kevin Priest, 47, of Farmer City received 18 years for criminal drug conspiracy; and Christopher Shortridge, 39, also of Farmer City, was sentenced this week to 17 years for criminal drug conspiracy.

Task Force officials anticipate more arrests in the investigation.


Man gets 17 years for selling cocaine

CLINTON -- A Farmer City man was sentenced to 17 years in prison Wednesday for his part in a conspiracy to sell cocaine in five Central Illinois counties.

Christopher Shortridge, 39, pleaded guilty to criminal drug conspiracy during an appearance in DeWitt County Circuit Court.

Shortridge was one of eight people arrested in May in a sweep that disrupted crack cocaine sales in DeWitt, Ford, Champaign and Vermillion counties.

As part of the plea, Shortridge agreed to cooperate with authorities on pending drug cases against other defendants.

The arrests were made as part of an investigation by Task Force 6, a multi-jurisdictional police unit targeting drug trafficking in DeWitt, Livingston and McLean counties.

The first arrest in the rural cocaine ring came in April.

Illinois Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock is handling the prosecution of the drug cases. A statewide grand jury handed down indictments against the defendants.


Man gets 18 years for drug conspiracy

CLINTON -- A Farmer City man was sentenced to 18 years in prison Monday for his role in a multicounty crack cocaine sales network.

Kevin Priest, 47, pleaded guilty to criminal drug conspiracy, a Class X felony, as part of a plea agreement with prosecutors.

Priest was among 15 people arrested in May on indictments returned by a statewide grand jury in Springfield. The defendants were charged with distributing and possessing cocaine and conspiring to bring the drug into Illinois.

Illinois Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock, who is the lead prosecutor for the drug cases, presented the plea agreement Monday to Judge Stephen Peters.

The network stretched through McLean, DeWitt, Ford, Champaign and Vermilion counties. Task Force 6, a multiagency drug enforcement team that investigates drug trafficking in DeWitt, Livingston and McLean counties, launched its probe into the rural cocaine sales enterprise last December.

Priest also must pay court costs and fines of more than $3,350. He is eligible for day-for-day good time credit on his prison term.

Devon Thomas, 37, of Fortville, Ind., conspired with the suspects to bring cocaine from Indiana to central Illinois, according to court documents. He is in federal custody on drug and weapons charges.

Last month, 22-year-old Amanda Nelson, of Gibson City, was sentenced to 20 years in prison for her part in the cocaine ring and 15 years to be served concurrently for juvenile pimping.

In another related case, Peters ruled Monday that Jennifer Cooley may use a portion of her bond to hire a private attorney to represent her on drug charges. Cooley, 24, of Farmer City, posted $25,000 for her release from jail.

If convicted of drug conspiracy charges, Robert Martin Schaub could face a prison sentence of 30 to 120 years, according to Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock.


Police find pot growing in Happy Splashes Swim School
By Jean Noellsch, News-Gazette
CLINTON – The first defendant in a series of drug arrests by Illinois State Police Task Force 6 has been convicted in DeWitt County Court this week.

Amanda C. Nelson, 22, who gave her most recent address as 1011 N. Melvin St. in Gibson City, has pleaded guilty to one count of criminal drug conspiracy and two counts of juvenile pimping. The plea agreement was negotiated by Illinois Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock.

Nelson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for the drug charge and 15 years for each of the two juvenile pimping charges. The sentences will run concurrently and were handed down Monday by DeWitt Circuit Court Judge Stephen H. Peters following the plea.

After her prison term, Nelson will also serve three years of mandatory supervised release. Fines and fees assessed to Nelson total nearly $126,000, including a street value fine of $90,000, a felony fee of $3,000 and a lump sum surcharge of $22,500.

In her plea, Nelson named 12 other members of the Devon Thomas Criminal Drug Conspiracy and agreed to testify against them or others at any time, including after her sentence is served. She also admitted to delivering 900 grams or more of cocaine supplied by Thomas between August 2006 and April 2007.

Some of the communities Nelson said she and Thomas distributed cocaine in were Colfax, Farmer City, Gibson City, LeRoy, Melvin, Paxton and Sibley.

Nelson stated that, during that time, more than 15 kilograms of cocaine were delivered by all members of the conspiracy from supplies transported by Thomas from Indiana.

Other actions Nelson acknowledged included allowing her property to be used for cocaine delivery or storage, handling cash related to drug transactions, disposing of evidence and introducing both customers and co-conspirators to the drug ring.

Nelson also admitted to two instances where she arranged for Thomas to have sexual intercourse with someone under 16 years of age. She was paid in crack cocaine by Thomas for the service.

The two instances occurred at the Wesley Young home in rural Melvin in Ford County and at the Days Inn of Champaign in Champaign County.

According to the plea agreement, Nelson also acknowledged arranging for her younger sister to engage in sexual intercourse with other persons in exchange for crack cocaine.

Hoppock said charges against Nelson were filed in DeWitt County because much of the drug activity occurred in the Farmer City area and Nelson made her first statement to the DeWitt County Sheriff.

In return for her plea, nine other counts stemming from a May 21 statewide grand jury indictment were dropped. Nelson was originally charged with a total of four counts of criminal drug conspiracy, five counts of unlawful possession or unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, and one count of conspiracy.

A Champaign County forgery charge was also dismissed as part of the plea agreement.

In the money Nelson owes, she agreed to pay Central States Bank $800 restitution. Nelson will get credit for 36 days served since May 21 at the DeWitt County Jail. She was represented by court-appointed attorney Joseph Carberry of Clinton.

According to Hoppock, Thomas is the only conspiracy member to receive federal charges in the drug conspiracy case. He said 14 other defendants have cases pending in McLean, DeWitt and Ford counties.Hoppock said the assistance of Champaign County State's Attorney Julia Rietz and Ford County State's Attorney Tony Lee were key to his filing the juvenile pimping charges. Lt. Chris Decker of the Gibson City Police Department was also credited as lead investigator on those charges.

Hoppock said other enforcement officers important in the task force arrests were Illinois State Police Master Sgt. Benjamin Halloran and DeWitt County Deputy Sgt. Jered Shoffner.


Woman gets 20 years for involvement in drug ring

By Edith Brady-Lunny, Pantagraph

CLINTON -- One of 15 defendants in a rural drug ring signed over custody of her 3-year-old son to her parents Monday after a judge sentenced her to 20 years in prison.

Amanda Nelson, 23, of Gibson City, pleaded guilty to criminal drug conspiracy and juvenile pimping. She was sentenced to 20 years for the drug case and 15 years on each of two counts of juvenile pimping. The prison terms will be served concurrently and she is eligible for day-for-day credit during the jail stay.

Judge Stephen Peters also imposed a $90,000 street value fine and a $3,000 felony fee against Nelson.

Nelson hugged her parents after the sentencing and signed paperwork brought to court by her family that allows them to take care of her young son while she is in jail.

According to a statement read in court by Illinois Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock, Nelson offered details of a multi-county crack cocaine operation to police after she was denied a $1,200 payment from one of the drug conspirators for selling $12,000 in cocaine over a weekend.

After sharing the information with police, she told Devon Thomas about her conversation with authorities, said Hoppock.

Nelson was one of more than a dozen people accused of selling cocaine for Thomas, 37, of Fortville, Ind. He is in federal custody on drug and gun charges.

The accused cocaine conspirators were selling the drug in DeWitt, McLean, Champaign, Ford and Vermillion counties, according to authorities. An investigation by the Illinois State Police Task Force 6, a multiagency police unit, made the arrests in May after about six months of investigation.

The search of several rural homes turned up gallon-size freezer bags full of cocaine and several handguns, said Hoppock. Each bag of cocaine weighs more than 900 grams, he said. Cocaine also was kept in a safe in house in rural Melvin.

If Nelson's case went to a trial, Thomas would be called to testify, said Hoppock, and would say that he and other members of the conspiracy delivered more than 15 kilograms of cocaine from August 2006 to April 30.

The juvenile pimping charge recently filed against Nelson involves her part in arranging sexual encounters between Thomas and an underage girl. The girl was given cocaine in exchange for sex, said Hoppock.

Nelson was one of three women who allegedly drove and introduced Thomas to customers.

Clinton attorney Joe Carberry represented Nelson on the charges.


15 have been arrested in crack-dealing case

BLOOMINGTON — Six more people have been arrested in connection with a widespread crack-dealing ring that so far has netted 15 arrests.

Arrested Friday were R. Martin Schaub, 47, of Gibson City; William Isaacs, 49; Vicky Isaacs, 43; and Christopher Shortridge, 39, all of Farmer City; and Tina Mattingly, 30, and Thomas Misch, 33, both of LeRoy. All were charged with criminal drug conspiracy and possession with intent to deliver and conspiracy.

Bond for each was set at $250,000.

A statement from Task Force 6, a multijurisdictional enforcement agency, said one suspect in Operation Pyramid remains at large. Commander Ben Halloran said the ring operated in DeWitt, McLean, Ford, Vermillion and Champaign counties. Police started their investigation in December.

Eight people were arrested in May 21. An Indiana man arrested in April since has pleaded guilty and is set for sentencing in September.

Agencies involved in the investigation are Task Force 6, which is part of the Illinois State Police; DeWitt County, Ford County and McLean County sheriff’s departments; and LeRoy and Gibson City police departments.

Prosecution is being handled by the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and DeWitt County State’s Attorney’s Office.


Man pleads guilty to selling crack, possessing gun

CHAMPAIGN — A 37-year-old man from Indiana has pleaded guilty to federal drug and gun charges connected to what police have said was a major crack cocaine distribution operation in McLean County and eastern Illinois. Devon Thomas entered guilty pleas June 7 to charges he sold crack cocaine and illegally possessed and transported at least one gun, according to court documents. He is scheduled for sentencing Sept. 6. Thomas was arrested April 12, and he since was accused with eight others of operating a drug trafficking and sales operation. Seven of the other eight were arrested. The investigation by Task Force 6, a multi-jurisdictional anti-narcotics unit, resulted in what police said was the breakup of a distribution network in McLean, DeWitt, Ford, Champaign and Vermillion counties.


Drug dealer faces 30 years in prison

Danville / Bloomington, IL - In state court today, Stephen Couch was convicted of multiple drug offenses including
Criminal Drug Conspiracy, Unlawful Delivery of Cocaine (three counts), and one count of Unlawful Delivery of Cannabis. Couch had been investigated and arrested by Task Force 6, a multi-agency drug enforcement unit coordinated by the Illinois State Police.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock led the prosecution for the Illinois Attorney General’s Office. During closing arguments in Couch's trial, Hoppock expressed that "persons who peddle this poison must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law." Hoppick later made reference to this case and an ongoing list of charges and arrests being handed to multiple individuals for a cocaine delivery conspiracy in central Illinois. "These indictments are a direct result of Task Force 6's ongoing campaign against drug dealers throughout Illinois," said Hoppick.

Task Force 6 commenced the investigation into Stephen Couch and Charles Allison in September of 2004. By the conclusion of the investigation in December of 2004, Task Force 6, had seized more than 1,300 grams of cocaine directly from Stephen Couch or Charles Allison. Two vehicles and more than $36,000.00 in cash were also forfeited as a result of this investigation. Attorney General Madigan’s Office also handled the civil forfeiture of Mr. Allison’s property. Charles Allison was convicted in 2006 and Hoppick said his conviction was a crucial piece of evidence showing Couch’s intent to commit the current offenses.

Sentencing for Couch is set for July 19, during which he faces six to thirty years on the criminal drug conspiracy charges.

May 22, 2007

Seven arrested on cocaine-related charges

BLOOMINGTON — Seven people were arrested and an eighth faces new charges in a sweep that police say disrupted a crack cocaine sales network that stretched through McLean, DeWitt, Ford, Champaign and Vermilion counties.

All eight are accused of trafficking and drug sales in connection with a 37-year-old man arrested April 12 on federal drug and gun charges.

Marvin Umstattd, 44, of LeRoy; Amanda Nelson, 22, of Gibson City; and Kevin Priest, 46, Kimberly Andres-Lowe, 39, Jennifer Cooley, 24, Christina Roe, 31, and Stacy Kauth, 38, all of Farmer City, were arrested Monday on charges they conspired to distribute cocaine, possessed and intended to sell cocaine, sold cocaine and conspired to traffic cocaine into Illinois. Loren D. Ford, 37, of LeRoy, faces similar charges and was already in the McLean County jail on an unrelated charge that he possessed a stolen lawn mower.

Task Force 6 commander Ben Halloran said the investigation began in December 2006 with rumors of a new drug seller targeting rural areas. He said officers were seeing an unusually large amount of drug cases in some small towns, and local police agencies helped identify the source of the cocaine.

Police from LeRoy, Gibson City, Farmer City and the DeWitt County and McLean County sheriff’s offices were involved in the investigation, according to information from Halloran. Task Force 6 is a multiagency police unit targeting drug trafficking in DeWitt, Livingston and McLean counties.

Monday’s arrests already have reduced drug supplies in some rural communities, and additional arrests are expected, Halloran said.

The three men and five women arrested Monday have been indicted by a statewide grand jury, which is often used in cases covering multiple counties. County state’s attorneys and members of the Illinois attorney general’s office will be involved in the cases.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock, who is lead counsel in the prosecution of the drug cases, said he can’t comment on the ongoing criminal cases.

In McLean County, the charges against Ford and Umstattd say they conspired with Devon Thomas, 37, of Fortville, Ind., to sell cocaine. Thomas is in federal custody.

The McLean County charges say that, between Aug. 1, 2006, and April 30, 2007, Ford and Umstattd sold cocaine, handled cash in sales, introduced customers and co-conspirators to Thomas, conspired to bring cocaine into Illinois and allowed property to be used in the sales and storage of cocaine, disposal of evidence and/or renting of vehicles.

Court documents on the other arrests weren’t available Monday evening.

Federal court documents say police seized 113 grams of crack cocaine and a .380 caliber handgun in a Feb. 6 search of a home rented by Thomas in Melvin.

Information from Task Force 6 says police also seized about 300 grams of crack cocaine and 80 grams of cocaine from an Urbana hotel room after Thomas’ arrest April 12.

December 27, 2006

Five people arrested so far in cocaine bust

BLOOMINGTON -- Five people have been arrested since August in a cocaine sales investigation that started in a village in eastern McLean County.

And the sheriff said those arrests likely will lead to more.

“Our guys are out now, and more arrests are expected,” McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery said Tuesday.

Last week, Michael Sullivan, 28, became the latest arrested since August in an investigation started in Saybrook, a town of 764 people at the time of the last Census. The town also is where Emery plans to install a new satellite sheriff’s office.

Sullivan has been charged in federal court with conspiracy to distribute narcotics and sales or distribution of narcotics. He remains in custody.

Emery said that, during this summer, residents tipped him off about a home at Jackson and Main streets in Saybrook where there was an unusual amount of traffic quickly arriving and leaving.

“We thought it to be drug related, so we employed our agent with Task Force 6, along with Task Force 6 agents and one of our detectives, and were able to get the necessary evidence from purchasing crack cocaine” for the first arrest, Emery said.

Task Force 6 is a special drug-enforcement unit involving officers from police agencies in DeWitt, Livingston and McLean counties.

Donald Washington, 51, was arrested and charged in early August, and soon bonded out of jail on 10 counts accusing him of manufacture and delivery of crack cocaine. Information from his arrest led to raids Dec. 11 and 14 and two arrests at another home, on South Main Street in Saybrook, police said.

Donyell Chatman, 31, was charged earlier this month on charges of manufacture and delivery of cocaine, and Casey Whitehouse, 22, was charged with cocaine possession in connection with the raids, Emery said. Both remain in McLean County jail.

And police also seized about $5,000 worth of cocaine at that home, Emery said.

Saybrook Village trustee Jim Gravitt said there had been rumors in town of such drug activity, but he didn’t know details until police swooped in.

“It’s a big help to the community because we don’t need that type of active in our community, or any other for that matter,” Gravitt said.

Trustee Craig Horsch said the drug sales had been a problem for the village.

“For the community, it’s been bad because it’s attracting the wrong type of people to town,” Horsch said.

And Horsch said he expects an increased police presence with a satellite sheriff’s office will help minimize such activities in the future.

During the Saybrook investigation, police were told of a woman selling cocaine from a Bloomington hotel, Emery said. Kourtney Rottunda, 22, was arrested in November and charged in federal court with possessing and intending to distribute cocaine, he said, and more than $30,000 worth of cocaine and three stolen handguns were seized in the arrest. She later was released.

The guns were traced to a burglary at a home in western McLean County, the sheriff said.

Follow-up information from the Rottunda arrest led to Sullivan’s arrest Dec. 20, Emery said. About $5,700 worth of cocaine was found in his arrest, he said.

“On Sullivan, federally, if found guilty and convicted, it’s a minimum of 20 years to life,” Emery said.

Emery said the people arrested in the investigation had a steady stream of customers, and he expects the arrests will significantly impact drug sales in the county. He said most of the credit in the investigation goes to Detective Joe Zoeller, a 20-year department veteran, and Detective Tim Tyler, a seven-year veteran.

October 23, 2006

Men accused of selling crack at motel

BLOOMINGTON -- Two Bloomington men are accused of using a room at the Coachmen Motel to sell $100 worth of crack cocaine to undercover police.

John Crawford, of the 300 block of
North Gridley Street, faces two counts of manufacture and delivery of cocaine and William Horst, of the 200 block of North Roosevelt Street, was charged with permitting unlawful use of a building and drug conspiracy. Both are in custody.

Crawford will have to produce $10,000 in cash to post bond, while Horst is being held in lieu of $15,000.

Crawford, 42, and Horst, 29, were arrested Friday morning after selling crack to an undercover officer the night before in room 116 of the Coachmen Motel, also known as the Friendship Inn.

Crawford rented the room, while Horst actually sold the single gram of cocaine for $100.

Both men have extensive criminal records.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006 6:01 PM CDT

Two sentenced on cocaine convictions

By Brett Nauman

BLOOMINGTON -- A Bloomington man was sentenced to three years of probation Tuesday after police arrested him with an ounce of cocaine earlier this year.

Terrance Williams, 24, told Judge Ronald Dozier that he wants to change his life and that he found God since his May arrest on cocaine delivery charges.

“I came here to admit I was wrong,” Williams said during Tuesday’s sentencing. “I can’t live my life the way I used. I have a son and a fiance who are important to me. I made a lot of bad choices. I need a chance to change.”

Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve, who asked for a six-year prison sentence, said Williams “is not the guy who should walk out of here with a piece of paper and probation.”

Horve said Williams, who is originally from
Arkansas, was arrested for the drugs only after he threatened a police informant.

When investigators were searching Williams’ home, they found a stolen handgun hidden in his infant son’s basinet. The boy was apparently in basket at the time.

Dozier said he was troubled about the stolen weapon, and that federal law enforcement could still file charges against Williams.

But Dozier said he was reluctant to send a person to prison for their first felony conviction. The judge warned Williams to stay away from drugs while on probation.

“If you blow it, I’m sure you’re going to go to the penitentiary,” Dozier said. “You have to understand that successfully completing probation is the most important priority in your life.”

Williams said “God bless you” to Dozier as he was taken back to the county jail where he could be processed and released.

The judge was not as lenient moments later when sentencing a 19-year-old
Chicago man who pleaded guilty to selling an ounce of cocaine earlier this year.

Darius Ollins said he moved to
Bloomington in 2005 to enroll at Heartland Community College, but got involved with the wrong sorts of people instead.

Horve said Ollins came to
McLean County to “make fast money.” The judge agreed, sentencing Ollins to four years in prison with the option of attending the prison boot camp program.

“Mr. Ollins, I just think I’m hearing more excuses than I am remorse,” Dozier said as Ollins stammered to explain why he never attended classes at Heartland.

Ollins pleaded with Dozier to reconsider his sentence, but Dozier said “The court has made its decision. You’re young and you’re healthy. You’ll be out of boot camp in six months.”

Inmates who complete the state’s six-month boot camp program receive early parole from their prison sentences.


Saturday, August 26, 2006 11:49 PM CDT

B-N man charged with marijuana trafficking

By Pantagraph staff

BLOOMINGTON -- A 32-year-old Bloomington man was charged Saturday after about a dozen police officers searched his residence Friday.

Michael Hoppe of the 1300 block of
South Mason Street was charged with marijuana trafficking, possession with intent to deliver more than 5,000 grams of marijuana and possessing an illegal firearm.

Bond was set at $200,000. Hoppe will have to come up with $20,000 cash to get bailed out.

If convicted, Hoppe could face a sentence of 12 to 60 years.

Officers from Task Force 6, which comprises local and area police agencies, and the Illinois State Police Tactical Response Unit were at the residence late Friday morning. Authorities received word that a package from
Texas containing marijuana would be arriving there via private courier mail.

The package, addressed to a “Matt Jones” at that residence, was intercepted in route and fields test for cannabis came back positive, police said.

Undercover officers delivered the package to Hoppe, who indicated to the delivery agent that he was “Matt Jones,” police said, and he was arrested after accepting it.


Friday, August 25, 2006 12:52 PM CDT

Clinton man charged with dealing LSD

By Edith Brady-Lunny

CLINTON -- A Clinton man has been charged with delivery of LSD after Task Force 6 officers executed a search warrant at his home.

Ryan Holt, 31, was arrested Thursday and taken to the
McLean County jail on charges of delivery of 15 to 200 doses of a controlled substance purported to be LSD.

Two truckloads of officers from the multi-jurisdictional drug team went into Holt’s house at
517 N. Quincy St. about 7 p.m. Wednesday and took away four people in handcuffs.

The four were released pending formal charges, the task force said.

Clinton police and DeWitt County deputies were on the scene. An officer with DeWitt County Animal Control picked up two dogs inside the house.

If convicted, Holt faces six to 30 years in prison for the Class X felony.

Task Force 6 is a drug enforcement unit comprised of officers from the
Bloomington, Clinton, Illinois State University and Dwight police departments, the DeWitt and McLean County sheriff’s departments and the Illinois State Police.

Thursday, August 24, 2006 12:21 AM CDT

Task Force 6 arrests four in drug bust

By Edith Brady-Lunny

CLINTON - Two truckloads of officers from Task Force 6 drug team entered a house in the 500 block of North Quincy Street Wednesday night and took four people away in handcuffs.

Clinton Police and DeWitt County Sheriff's Department also were on the scene for the drug bust that began around
7 p.m.–;An officer from DeWitt County Animal Control picked up at least two dogs that were inside the house.

DeWitt County Sheriff Roger Massey said details of the operation that included several locations would be released today by Task Force 6 officials.

Task Force 6 is a drug-enforcement unit comprised of officers from the
Bloomington, Clinton, Illinois State University and Dwight Police Departments, the DeWitt and McLean County Sheriff's Departments and the Illinois State Police.


Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Saybrook man accused of selling cocaine

By Pantagraph staff

SAYBROOK -- A Saybrook man has been accused of dealing cocaine out of his home in the rural McLean County town.

Donald Washington, 51, is charged with selling cocaine to agents with Task Force 6 on three separate occasions, prosecutors said. Task Force 6 is a drug-enforcement group involving officers from agencies in the Pontiac-based state police district.

Washington posted $3,000 bond and was released from the county jail last week on charges of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.

Thursday, April 27, 2006 1:00 AM CDT

Man gets 35 years for cocaine

By Brett Nauman

BLOOMINGTON -- A Rankin man was sentenced to 35 years in prison Wednesday for trying to sell nearly a kilogram of cocaine to an undercover police officer in what authorities said was the area’s biggest cocaine bust.

Charles Allison, 54, will likely be in his 80s if he lives long enough to get paroled on cocaine charges, Judge James Souk said after announcing the sentence.

Assistant Attorney General Matthew Hoppock asked the judge for a 100-year sentence, arguing Allison has been “peddling poison” to the community since the late 1970s.

"Mr. Allison has lived the life of a drug dealer," Hoppock said. "Let him die the death of a drug dealer. Let him die in prison."

Allison was arrested Dec. 17, 2004 after he brought 998 grams of cocaine — nearly 2.2 pounds — to a LeRoy truck stop, intending to sell it for $21,000, prosecutors said.

The bust was the most cocaine ever seized by Task Force 6, a multijuridisctional agency comprised of state police and local officers who investigate drug activity in DeWitt, McLean and parts of Livingston County.

Souk could have sentenced Allison to up to 300 years in prison because Allison committed the crime while awaiting trial on cocaine charges in Vermillion County.

But Allison, who is serving 20 years on the Vermillion County case, pleaded with the judge to give him a sentence that would give him a shot at one day being able to hold his grandchildren.

"I’m guilty of the charges against me, but I don’t believe I deserve the sentence the state is asking for. Murderers, rapists and other violent criminals are receiving way less than this," Allison said. "All I’m asking for is a fair sentence. Hopefully, I’ll be able to walk out of prison, not taken out in a bag."

Saturday, March 4, 2006

Two arrested in Ecstasy selling case

By Brett Nauman

BLOOMINGTON - A U.S. Army soldier who recently returned from Iraq and a Normal woman remained in jail Friday after police seized more than $1,200 in Ecstasy from them during a drug bust this week, authorities said.

Police say that Joshua Shockley, 21, and Jennifer Schupbach, 22, were involved in selling 10 tablets of the drug for $250 to a police informant Wednesday night on the Illinois State University campus.

Ecstasy has been on the decline in recent years on the ISU campus and that Wednesday's bust was the largest in the last two years, said Ben Halloran, commander of Task Force 6, the multiagency anti-drug police group that handled the case.

Shockley is being held in lieu of posting $10,000 on charges of possession of Ecstasy with intent to deliver and delivery of Ecstasy. Police found 40 additional pills in his pickup truck following the purchase, prosecutors said.

Schupbach is being held in lieu of posting $5,000 on charges of criminal drug conspiracy. She is accused of helping Shockley arrange a buyer for the drugs, prosecutors said Friday during custody hearings for the two defendants.

Shockley purchased the Ecstasy, which is valued at between $20 and $30 per pill, near a military base in another state, Halloran said.

An active duty member of the Army and veteran of the Iraq War, Skockley was on a 30-day leave and heading toward Rockford to visit family.

Prosecutors said both Shockley and Schupbach admitted their involvement in the drug scheme when they were questioned by police.

The defendants described the pills as "Motorola double stacks" to the police informant with whom they were arranging a deal.

Shockley and Schupbach each face between six and 30 years in prison if convicted of the drug charges in McLean County Circuit Court.


March 25, 2005

B-N men accused of selling marijuana

PONTIAC – Two Bloomington men were arrested after they sold more than a pound of marijuana to an undercover police officer, police said.

Anthony J. McWhorter, 21, and Jesse M. Mason, 24, were in the Livingston County jail on Friday in lieu of posting $100,000 each on charges of unlawful delivery of marijuana and armed violence.  They were arrested about 1 p.m. at the intersection of Division and Howard streets in Pontiac, police said.

In addition to the 566 grams of marijuana in the sale, officers reported seizing another 116 grams of marijuana and a loaded handgun in the arrest, police said.


Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Resident's tip leads to meth arrests

CLINTON - A tip from a resident led police to a home on Clinton's east side Friday and the arrest of four people on charges relating to chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine.

A public complaint of possible drug activity was made to the county combined dispatch center regarding a home on the 1700 block of East North Street. Officers from the DeWitt County Sheriff's Department, Clinton police and an agent with Task Force 6 drug unit responded.

Sheriff Roger Massey said officers watched the home and followed a vehicle as it left the building. A deputy who stopped the vehicle found chemicals used to manufacture methamphetamine and controlled substances, Massey said.

Held on charges of unlawful criminal drug conspiracy were Jerry W. Riggs, 21, of Taylorville, and Cory W. Cook, 24, Justin O.Droke, 21, and Giselle A. Smith, 19, all of Clinton. All four remained jailed Monday on $20,000 bond.

The charges, Class X felonies, carry a possible sentence of from six to 30 years.

Massey said the investigation is continuing and more arrests may be made.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Drug dealer gets 30 years

By Steve Silverman

PEORIA -- A federal judge Wednesday sentenced a Normal man to 30 years in prison for directing a cocaine distribution operation just months after being paroled for similar crimes he committed as a Twin City gang leader in the 1990s.

Paul Childs, 42, received 25 years in prison for distribution and conspiracy to distribute crack cocaine and a consecutive five-year term for possession of a firearm for drug trafficking.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm cited Childs' lengthy criminal record and poor potential for rehabilitation. He ticked off a long list of past convictions, including a 16-year sentence Childs received for drug conspiracy while leader of the Twin City branch of the Gangster Disciples street gang.

The judge also pointed to recordings of phone calls placed from the McLean County jail in which Childs desperately tried to determine who'd cooperated with police and gave people instructions in an effort to control the damage.

"You had people who were doing your bidding in this case, even after you were arrested," the judge told Childs, adding it's "painfully clear he was attempting to control the situation from his jail cell."

Childs' trial in 2004 featured three police informants who testified to arranging drug deals or buying cocaine from Childs. The jailhouse recordings showed Childs questioning several people, including one of the informants, about what they'd told police and speculating about who could have turned him in.

Defense attorney Rob Alvarado argued the meaning of Childs' comments, which were laced with profanity, slang terms and nicknames, were too vague to decipher. But prosecutors contended the tapes showed Childs making plans to try to intimidate informants and arrange for the removal of cash and other evidence from his home.

Childs' co-defendant, Elizabeth Crabtree -- who previously pleaded guilty to drug charges and is awaiting sentencing -- also testified Childs told her to tell another man to take responsibility for a gun recovered during the raid of his home.

Crabtree said Childs sold crack cocaine on a daily basis while the two lived together for several months in 2002. She added Childs directed her to make several drugs sales.

Evidence from Childs' six-day trial included tapes of several phone conversations and other discussions in which Childs arranged to sell cocaine. Marked bills found on Childs when he was arrested matched bills used by informants to make drug purchases.

The defense maintained the prosecution's case was built on faulty testimony from drug addicts hoping for leniency in their own criminal cases.

Alvarado said Childs will appeal his conviction.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

7 arrested in predawn drug raid

By Edith Brady-Lunny

CLINTON -- A predawn raid of five locations in DeWitt County involving more than 60 police officers Tuesday closed a significant route for drugs into Central Illinois, police said.

Seven Clinton residents were arrested in the drug raid called Operation Money Tree.

Clinton Police Chief Mike Reidy said several people taken into custody have strong ties to gangs and illegal drug traffickers in Chicago. The arrests will have an impact on the connection between DeWitt County and Chicago drug dealers, said Reidy.

"This is huge for Clinton for the illegal drug trade," he said.

Officers from several police agencies served six warrants about 5:45 a.m. at what they described as "connected, active, ongoing, gang-affiliated, drug-dealing operations." The Clinton-area locations targeted were an apartment building on the 200 block of East Adams Street, a home on U.S. 51, a home on the 500 Block of West Jefferson Street and a room in a motel on Illinois 54.

Urban drug dealers target rural areas because the dealers have access to large amounts of drugs and can eliminate competition through lower prices, Reidy said.

The following Clinton residents were arrested in Operation Money Tree:

• Isias R. Ramos, 23, one count unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and two counts unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.

• Hector A. Reyes, 43, unlawful possession of a controlled substance, unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and five counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.

• Antonio Reyes, 43, one count of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.

• Javier Ramirez, 24, one count of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance and one count of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance.

• Ruben J. Rosario, 22, criminal drug conspiracy.

• Emilia Reyes, 24, possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver and possession of marijuana with intent to deliver.

• Megan Poole, 20, possession of marijuana.

In addition to what police described as "a significant amount of drugs" confiscated during the raids, officers believe they located a sizable amount of stolen property, police said.

No value or weight was available from police on the drugs seized in the raid.

The agencies who had officers involved in the raid were: Task Force 6, which has police from agencies in DeWitt, Livingston and Mclean counties; Illinois State Police; Illinois Department of Natural Resources; the East Central Illinois Task Force; Clinton Police Department; and DeWitt County Sheriff's Department.


Sunday, December 19, 2004

Cops make record drug bust

By Laura Rineer

LEROY -- The largest purchase of illegal drugs by a Task Force 6 agent has led to charges against a Rankin man, and more arrests are expected in an ongoing undercover investigation in Central Illinois.

Charles T. Allison, 53, was charged Saturday with one count of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance for allegedly selling one kilogram of cocaine to an undercover agent in LeRoy.

Valued at $100,800, the cocaine was the largest amount ever purchased by a task force agent, the agency said Saturday. Task Force 6 is a coalition of area police agencies targeting drug crimes.

Assistant State's Attorney Jeff Horve said Allison was being held in McLean County Jail in lieu of $1 million bond and will appear in court Monday. Horve said the charge is a Super Class X felony, punishable by 12 to 60 years in jail upon conviction.

Task Force 6 Master Sgt. David Jocson said Allison was a major source of distribution of illegal drugs in DeWitt, Champaign, Vermillion and McLean counties.

"One kilogram is a pretty big amount for a Central Illinois resident," said Jocson, adding the investigation is continuing, and additional arrests will be made. A kilogram is equal to about 2.2 pounds.

After Allison was arrested, police obtained a search warrant for his Rankin residence where police said they found an additional 344 grams of cocaine, 853 grams of marijuana, five handguns, a rifle, and $38,100 in cash.

That cocaine was valued at $34,400; the marijuana's street value is worth $5,900, according to Task Force 6.

Task Force 6 is comprised of officers from the Illinois State Police, the sheriff's departments in McLean, DeWitt, and Livingston counties and police departments in Bloomington, Normal, Dwight, Pontiac, Clinton and at Illinois State University.

The Illinois Attorney General and McLean County State's Attorney offices also assisted along with the Vermillion County Metropolitan Enforcement Group.


Saturday, November 20, 2004

Suspect guilty of drug charges

By Karen Blatter

PONTIAC -- A Streator man has been convicted of charges from the largest drug-sales bust in Livingston County history, making him eligible for 12 to 50 years in prison.

A jury convicted Robert L. Mishka, 40, on three counts of possessing a controlled substance with the intent to deliver and a count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

He was acquitted of another count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Undercover police from the multiagency Task Force 6 and Livingston County sheriff's police had been watching Mishka for several months before he was arrested in February with about a pound each of cocaine and marijuana, as well as 66 ecstasy pills.

The defense claimed Mishka was set up as a drug courier, but Assistant State's Attorney Carey Luckman said the jury could see from witness testimony that Mishka was involved in criminal activity.

"Mr. Mishka admits to doing the things involved in the crime," Luckman said. "He was looking over his shoulder, he's acting like a drug dealer."

Mishka's attorney, Jerry Bischoff of Chicago, said his client was forced to be part of illegal activity by a man, Amando Campos, who was working with police to avoid prosecution. Bischoff criticized Campos' testimony and his ability to be a witness.

"He lies about anything and everything," Bischoff said. "I never have told you my client was a Boy Scout. Mr. Campos has an agenda."

Mishka, who took the stand in his own defense, said he did not deal drugs. He said Campos forced him into getting drugs for him.

"I was afraid of him," he said. "He told me that he killed someone. He was never nice about it. He told me it was in my best interest to get drugs."

Mishka said he and Campos would do drugs together.

Prosecutors saw the relationship differently.

"He acted like they were buddies, and then all of sudden, he was scared of him," Luckman said.

On Feb. 4, Livingston County sheriff's police stopped Mishka and Campos in Dwight. The police had been watching the pair all day, and they believed the pair had driven to Chicago to pick up drugs.

After the car Mishka was driving was searched, police found 490 grams of cocaine, 454 grams of marijuana and 66 ecstasy pills. The street value of the cocaine could have been up to $150,000.

Police had been working undercover for several months with Campos, who they said also bought cocaine from Mishka twice in January.

Mishka will be sentenced in January.


Friday, November 12, 2004

10 arrested in early morning drug raid

By Steve Silverman

BLOOMINGTON -- Ten people were arrested early Thursday morning in four raids that authorities said will have a "devastating impact" on drug dealing in the Twin Cities.

Weapons, cocaine, marijuana and documents detailing drug sales were seized as an estimated 75 officers from area agencies converged on Bloomington gang operations in the 800 block of West Grove Street; the 800 block of West Jefferson Street; the 600 block of North Roosevelt Street; and the 600 block of North Oak Street.

Bloomington Police spokesman Tom Sanders said large amounts of drugs were distributed from the locations. He said hitting all four spots and arresting key players in a single sweep will hamper the drug ring from moving its operations to another location.

"You basically stop the drug dealing in its tracks, and the attendant crimes that go along with it," Sanders said.

Sanders said one or two gangs, which he wouldn't identify, were targeted.

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Crackdown," began as separate probes by the Bloomington Police vice unit, Normal Police vice unit and Task Force Six, a drug enforcement unit that draws officers from several Central Illinois police departments.

The separate investigations were later merged because the targets were connected, Sanders said.

The raids began at 5:25 a.m. and included officers from Bloomington police, Normal police, Illinois State Police, Task Force Six and the Central Illinois Violent Fugitive Apprehension Task Force of the U.S. Marshal's Service.

Sanders said there were no major problems, though one suspect fled and was arrested a short distance away. Eight people were arrested on warrants and seven warrants are pending. Two more were picked up on new charges.

The following arrests were made in the sweep:

Frank J. Pleasant, 22, of Riverdale; Lawrence R. Anderson, 23, of Normal; Iyesha L. Perkins, 21, of Bloomington; Ryan Anderson, 23, of Bloomington; Barry L. Williams, 19, of Kankakee; Candice R. Johnson, 42, of Bloomington; Simon E. Caldwell, 54, of Bloomington; William M. Irvin, 29, of Bloomington; Quion L. Williams, 25, of Kankakee; James Mitchell, 25, of Bloomington.


OCTOBER 16, 2004

Drug dealer sentenced to 12 years

By Steve Silverman

BLOOMINGTON -- A Bloomington man who sold hundreds of pounds of marijuana through what prosecutors called a sophisticated drug-dealing ring was sentenced Friday to 12 years in prison.

In handing down the sentence, McLean County Circuit Judge Elizabeth Robb sympathized with Jeffrey Raines' longtime struggles with depression and self-esteem problems. But she said a stiff penalty was needed to deter others from selling drugs that "cause untold harm to untold numbers of individuals."

"You were a large-scale distributor. ... We're talking about conduct that caused devastation to individuals in our community," the judge said.

In a brief statement, Raines expressed regret and bafflement over getting so deeply involved in the drug trade. He said his operation rapidly expanded as a "huge" demand for marijuana in the area brought money pouring in.

"It was never my intent to hurt myself or my family like I have," Raines said, as relatives filling his side of the courtroom choked back sobs.

Raines, 24, of Jodi Lane, pleaded guilty earlier this year to conspiracy to deliver more than 11 pounds of marijuana. As part of the deal, he forfeited $160,000 worth of property, including two cars and more than $83,000.

Raines was arrested after Task Force 6, a Central Illinois drug investigation unit, documented marijuana sales through an informant. Several dealers worked under Raines, including one who owed him $23,000 for marijuana he'd provided in advance, said Inspector Tony Hosey, a member of the task force.

Hosey said Raines admitted under questioning to making $130,000 while distributing 800 pounds of marijuana in McLean County over a two-year period. Police recovered a money counter and a ledger documenting sales, and Raines directed police to a safe containing $80,000, Hosey said.

McLean County chief drug prosecutor Jeff Horve called for an 18-year sentence, citing the quantity of marijuana and the profits reaped from the sales. He said Raines used the profits to support the lavish lifestyle of a major drug dealer.

The judge said Raines operated an efficient business, adding that he could have been highly successful if he hadn't gotten involved in illegal activities. She called the case "truly a sad, terrible situation."


Saturday, September 18, 2004

Parents target 'club drugs'

By Paul Swiech

NORMAL -- Ecstasy and other so-called "club drugs" are on the rise in Central Illinois and parents of some area high school students want to fight back with the most potent weapon of all:


"Club drugs: Not in our town" is the subject of a forum for parents of McLean County high school students. The forum -- 7 to 8:30 p.m. next Thursday in Stroud Auditorium of University High School, Normal -- will explain what are club drugs, what leads to their use and what parents can do.

Organized by the University High School Parent Support Network and cosponsored by the Heartland Coalition for Youth & Families and Illinois State Police Task Force 6, the forum is open to all parents because use of club drugs is a societal problem, said U High parents and organizers Donna Anhalt and Renee Jocson.

"From any family, some incident can happen," Anhalt said.

Anhalt -- whose children are 15, 17, 19 and 21 -- and Jocson -- whose children are 7, 11 and 17 -- are involved parents. But even they were shocked when they learned how pervasive club drugs are in McLean, Livingston and DeWitt counties, the area covered by Task Force 6.

A task force sergeant reported at a Project X kickoff at Illinois State University in January that in 2000-2001, task force officers had seized 105 Ecstasy pills. By 2002-2003, that was up to 4,535 pills, in addition to 139 grams of ketamine and 1,331 grams of GHB.

"That's a huge jump," Jocson said.

Club drugs are made in unclean labs, damage brain neurons and can kill. Ecstasy -- the most popular and powerful -- is smuggled into bars, parties and anywhere by people who want to enhance their senses or put someone else under their control by slipping the pill in a drink.

Project X is a statewide initiative to crack down on club drugs. Bloomington-based Chestnut Health Systems is among nine sites throughout Illinois to pilot projects to fight club drugs and is developing programs at ISU, Illinois Wesleyan University, Heartland Community College and Lincoln College.

Knowing that some of these drugs end up in the hands of high school students, Anhalt and Jocson -- on behalf of the U High parents group -- applied for and received a $500 grant from the Heartland Coalition to put on the communitywide forum to educate and empower parents.

Asked what parents who have other commitments should do next Thursday night, Anhalt said "Divide and conquer. One parent comes to this. The other stays home with the kids. Maybe they'll need to miss a game or other activity that night."

"Parents know so little about this," Jocson said. "But these things are out there and could impact our kids. We need to know about them."


June 2004

Man gets 10 years for selling cocaine in Bloomington

BLOOMINGTON – A Bloomington man was sentenced Tuesday to more than 10 years in federal prison for his role in selling cocaine out of a Twin City business that authorities say gang members used as a front for a drug distribution operation.

U.S. District Judge Michael Mihm handed 20-year-old Darcell Van a 121-month term for distribution of crack cocaine.  Van pleded guilty to the charge last year.  Van’s father, Daniel Van, and Rico Trice also have pleded guilty to federal drug charges.  Trice is scheduled to be sentenced in July; while Daniel Van’s sentencing is set for January.  Charges are pending against a fourth defendant, Ty Johnson.  His trial is set for July 6.

The arrest of Darcell Van culminated a year-long investigation by Task Force 6 – a multicounty drug-enforcemen unit made up of officers drawn from various Central Illinois departments – and the federal Drug Enforcement Administration.  Task Force 6 Commander Dave Jocson said the investigation showed that Daniel Van owned Pro-Shine Customer Detailing in Bloomington, where he and his son sold drugs.

Darcell Van was convicted of selling 74.5 grams of crack cocaine to a police informant in two transactions, Jocson said.  Johnson and Trice are accused of supplying the Vans with drugs.  All four were members of the Gangster Disciples street gang, Jocson said, adding that using the car-detailing business to sell drugs was an unusually sophisticated distribution strategy.


April 7, 2004

Testimony: Childs headed drug ring

Defense: Witnesses testifying in exchange for money, leniency

PEORIA – A Normal woman on Tuesday tagged Paul Childs as the head of a Twin City drug distribution ring, saying she sold crack cocaine for him in 2002 while the two had a romantic relationship.

Elizabeth Crabtree told jurors in U.S. District Court in Peoria that Childs gave her money for household expenses in exchange for making sales.  But, she said her emotional attachment to Childs was the main reason she participated in the conspiracy.  “I would have done anything he asked me to do,” she said on the second day of Childs’ trial on federal drug and weapon charges.

Prosecutors say Childs resumed dealing cocaine shortly after he was paroled from a 16-year prison sentence he received in the early 1990s for operating a drug sales network in Bloomington-Normal.  The investigation that led to his conviction identified him as the leader of the local Gangster Disciples street gang.

Childs’ trial is expected to finish early next week.

The defense contends Childs, 41, of Normal, has been falsely accused by criminal and drug addicts seeking leniency in their own cases and other benefits.  For example, Crabtree is awaiting sentencing on a federal drug distribution conviction.  Under cross examination, she said she hopes her testimony against Childs will help her get a reduced sentence, but she insisted she’s telling the truth.

Assistant Federal Public Defender Rob Alvardo said Crabtree’s testimony is contradicted by a statement she gave to police after she was arrested in December 2002.  Reading from a police report, he quoted her as saying, “I was selling it, he (Childs) had nothing to do with it, it was all mine.”  Crabtree replied that she never made that statement, and must have been misquoted by police.  Crabtree also identified a handgun that she said Childs often carried, and she testified to storing cocaine at her apartment and selling cocaine at Childs’ request.

Alan Logston of Bloomington testified to buying cocaine from Childs and receiving directions from him to get drugs from others, including Crabtree.  Jury members listened to tapes of phone calls and other recorded conversations in which Logston said he talked to Childs and Crabtree about buying drugs.

Logston’s credibility was attacked by Alvardo.  He noted Logston served 10 years in prison for a 1989 home invasion and then received probation for a 2003 domestic battery.  He suggested that Logston received leniency in exchange for implicating Childs; Logston denied that charge.

Logston acknowledged receiving about $400 from police.  He insisted that money was his only motivation for assisting the investigation.  “Money to pay more bills?” Alvardo asked.  “Yes,” Logston said.  “And money to buy more crack?” Alvardo asked.


February 6, 2004

Police grab pot, cocaine, ecstasy

Drug arrest one of largest in county’s history

Livingston County police said Thursday they have made one of the largest drug-related arrests in county history in an undercover operation that began last fall.

The investigation culminated Wednesday night when police found about a pound each of cocaine and marijuana and 6 ecstasy pills during a traffic stop in Interstate 55, police said.

The cocaine alone was worth about $50,000 in its pure form, but could have sold for $150,000 once cut for sale, said Livingston County Sheriff Robert McCarty.  The driver, Robert L. Mishka, 39, of Streator, was charged in Livingston County Circuit Court with several felony drug charges related to cocaine and ecstasy. 

McCarty said Mishka’s arrest ended an undercover operation known as “Strictly Class.”  The undercover operation started in the fall after the Livingston County Proactive Unit received a tip that was turned over to Task Force 6, a Central Illinois undercover drug enforcement unit supervised by the state police.

Livingston County State’s Attorney Tom Brown said in court Thursday that police stopped Mishka after he made a drug run to Chicago.  Brown said police stopped Mishka, the owner of a Streator limousine company, at 6:45 p.m. Wednesday near Dwight for a traffic violation.  In the back seat of Mishka’s car, police found 490 grams of cocaine in a black garbage bag wrapped in a coat, Brown said.  Police also said they found 454 grams of marijuana in Mishka’s trunk, as well as 66 ecstasy pills.  Police also seized $1,600 in cash.  Another person was in the car with Mishka, but so far no one else has been charged in the case.

Although police often have found large quantities of drugs in vehicles on I-55, McCarty said this was the largest confiscation of drugs destined for sale in Livingston County.  Mishka was charged Thursday with possession of cocaine and ecstasy with the intent to deliver.  Those two counts are Class X felonies.  Mishka also faces felony possession charges relating to the cocaine and ecstasy, as well as felony marijuana charges.

Mishka is expected back in court Wednesday to resolve whether he will hire a private attorney.  Mishka remained in Livingston County jail Thursday in lieu of $250,000 cash.


January 23, 2004

Project X campaign tackles ISU

Program intends to deal with drugs such as ecstasy, methamphetamines

By Ellen Pettifer

Governor Ron Blagojevich announced he is taking a firm stance against the use of club drugs by granting $2.5 million to a proposal known as Project X.

The project's goal is to eliminate the use of drugs such as methamphetamines, ecstasy and cocaine, Laura Menard, assistant director of youth services at Chestnut Health Systems, said.

Project X will be using a three prone approach that deals with prevention, treatment and enforcement, according to Early Intervention Specialist for Chestnut Health Services Kathy O'Connell.

The money was distributed to Chestnut Health Services along with eight other sites for the project, Menard said.

Chestnut will be collaborating on the project with ISU, Illinois State Police Task Force 6,
Heartland Community College and Illinois Wesleyan University.

The sites were placed around areas with some of the larger campuses in
Illinois. The task forces involved include Central Illinois Task Force, DuPage County Metro, East Central Illinois, Metropolitan Enforcement Group, North Central Narcotics Task Force, Southern Illinois Enforcement Group, Task Force X and West Central Illinois Task Force, Menard said.
According to O'Connell, a survey conducted at ISU in 2003 stated that 96 percent of ISU students have never used ecstasy and 3.1 percent had used it in the past year.

Chicago is one of 12 of the major areas that has seen a rise in the popularity of club drugs, O'Connell said.

There are students who feel a campaign like Project X is not necessary at ISU because there are not many students partaking in the club drug fad.

"I don't think ISU is really frequented by drugs like [methamphetamines] and ecstasy because there is not really any kind of scene for those kind of drugs," junior psychology major Jerod Smith said. "I assume that most people get them from their friends who have tried them and understand the consequences."

However, Illinois Police Task Force 6 Commander David M. Jocson said he feels the drugs are so new to society that many people are unaware of the possible consequences.

January 21, 2004

Man faces hard time in pot case

BLOOMINGTON – A Bloomington man faces up to 30 years in prison after admitting Wednesday to running a large-scale drug operation in McLean County. 

During a brief court appearance, Jeffrey L. Raines, 24, of Jodi Lane pleaded guilty to conspiracy to deliver more than 11 pounds of marijuana.  Sentencing is scheduled for June 2.  As part of the deal, Raines forfeited about $160,000 worth of property seized by police during a raid in August.  The confiscated items included a computer, two cars, and more than $83,000 from drug sales, according to court records.

In exchange for the plea, prosecutors agreed not to refer the case to federal court and dismissed a felony charge that accused Raines of harassing a police informant.  Assistant State’s Attorney Jeff Horve said the informant was arrested after Task Force 6, a Central Illinois drug-investigation unit, documented two sales in July totaling about half a pound of marijuana.  The informant had another 20 pounds of marijuana Raines had supplied, Horve said.

Police searched Raines’ home in August and found a pound of marijuana packaged for sale as well as a money counter and records of various assets.  A “safe house” in Chenoa where Raines stored drugs yielded another pound of marijuana and ledgers detailing sales of about $60,000 worth of marijuana over the past 4 years, according to court records.

Raines admitted his involvement under questioning, saying he obtained the marijuana in Chicago and brought it back to the Twin Cities, Horve said.  Three other men identified as lower-level distributors also have cases pending in McLean County Circuit Court.  Brandon Cotner, 21, is to have a status hearing Feb. 26.  Carl Martens, 21, of the 100 block of West Cherry Street, Normal, will be sentenced March 4.  John D. Jordan, 24, of the 300 block of Riley Drive, Bloomington, is scheduled to be sentenced Feb. 23.





September 20, 2003

Task Force 6 arrests two in drug sales case

BLOOMINGTON – Two Bloomington-Normal men are accused of selling more than 240 grams of cocaine to Illinois State Police Task Force 6 officers.

Rosember Almanza-Buendia, 28, of the 800 block of West Olive Street in Bloomington and Jorge Blanquel, 29, of the 600 block of West Chestnut Street in Normal, are charged with criminal drug conspiracy.

Between July 22 and Sept. 19, Task Force Six officers said that the suspects sold officers cocaine nine times.  Prosecutors said Almanza-Buendia identified Blanquel as the main supplier.  Both were jailed in lieu of $20,000.