PESOTUM — State police said a 2-ton drug bust Monday on a Douglas County highway was likely in Illinois’ all-time top 10.
“This was one of the largest drug seizures in state of Illinois history,” said Capt. Stuart Shaver, administrator of the nine-county East Central Illinois police district that includes Douglas, Champaign, Macon and Vermilion counties. “I would say it is probably in the Top 10.”
Sgt. Bill Emery of the state police said that 4,358 pounds of marijuana with a street value ranging between $14 and $19.7 million dollars, were seized from a semitruck following a traffic stop on Monday.
Emery said the difference is due to the fact that the street value varies from place to place from $7 to $10 per gram.
Shaver said troopers pulled over a northbound Great Dane tractor-trailer truck on Interstate 57 at mile marker 216, about four miles south of Pesotum, for following another vehicle too closely.
Douglas County State’s Attorney Kevin Nolan said the men told police they had started their trip in San Antonio and Dallas and were headed to Chicago.
“As the officer was talking with the individuals involved, the officers became suspicious that these individuals may not know as much about the trucking industry as a typical truck driver would,” Shaver said. “The occupants provided inconsistent information and had log book violations.”
After police received permission to search the truck, District 10 State Police’s drug-detecting dog, Xocko, walked around the truck and alerted to the presence of drugs in the trailer, according to State Police Master Sgt. Ryan G. Starrick, who was at the scene.
Starrick said Xocko is a passive alert canine who goes into a sit position when he detects the presence of drugs.
When the back door of the trailer was opened, police found crates of cabbage. Labels on the crates said the cabbages came from McManus-Wyatt Produce in Weslaco, Texas.
Starrick said that secreted within the load of cabbage were 270 shrink-wrapped bales of marijuana.
“The cabbage was there to help conceal the contraband,” Starrick said. “Every one of the individual bales was wrapped in cellophane.”
“The marijuana wasn’t in every cabbage box,” Emery said.
Police arrested the driver, Jesus Guzman, 31, and two passengers, Eric Cabrera, 35, and Joshua Cornillez, 32, all from the Livingston, Calif., area, for possession, manufacture and delivery of cannabis, cannabis trafficking and calculated criminal cannabis conspiracy and took them to the Douglas County Jail.
Judge Chris Freese set bond for the three men at $1 million each.
Nolan said that if the men are convicted of the most serious charge, trafficking, they could be sentenced to between 12 and 60 years in prison.
Shaver said that some of the marijuana has been sent to a lab, but the majority of it is being stored in a vault in Springfield.
Nolan said the three men are next scheduled to appear in court on Feb. 23.
Shaver said police will be spending the upcoming days trying to determine who owns the truck and how much money is owed on it.
Shaver said the truck had not been stolen.
Shaver said he was very proud of the work of the state troopers in making the arrest.
“One of the main goals of the Illinois State Police is to make our community safer, and I think our troopers did just that in taking so much cannabis off the streets,” Shaver said. “We’re doing a better job of recognizing that our interstates are being used for illegal activity, and it is our job to make sure that our communities are safe.”
“We have some highly motivated troopers who go out and do this every day,” Starrick said. “I am shocked at the amount of drugs that were found, but it isn’t shocking to me that our officers did such a good job.”
Staff writer Mary Schenk contributed to this story.