State's attorney seeks forfeiture of home in gun and drug case
URBANA — Loaded, stolen guns stored in a garage led Urbana police to two men arrested Monday for having more than 5 pounds of cannabis.
And the presence of the drugs has the state's attorney's office initiating proceedings to have another house forfeited to the state, according to State's Attorney Julia Rietz.
Urbana police Sgt. Dan Morgan said on Sunday evening, a man who had subleased a residence in the 1000 block of South Cottage Grove Avenue called police after finding four loaded rifles, one loaded .22-caliber handgun, and ammunition for all of those weapons in plastic totes in a detached garage there.
Morgan said the man had recently subleased the residence from Mark A. Cruz, 52, who currently lives in the 1400 block of Cottage Grove Avenue. Sunday was the first time he had rooted around in the garage, Morgan said.
A check of the guns revealed that they had been stolen in a car theft case that happened Sept. 21 in the 1800 block of Myra Ridge in Urbana. Morgan said the car that was stolen was found later the same day in east Urbana but the guns were not in it.
That revelation led police to watch Cruz's current residence in the 1400 block of South Cottage Grove on Monday. When Cruz left the home about 1:50 p.m., police stopped the pickup truck he was in based on their knowledge of the stolen guns and that Cruz was driving on a revoked license.
In the bed of the truck, which was covered, police found eight half-pound bags of cannabis, packaging materials, and $29,000 in cash, Morgan said.
Police then got a search warrant for Cruz's home, where they found about 1 1/2 more pounds of cannabis and about $2,500 in cash, for a total of just over $31,000.
Rietz said Tuesday that she charged Cruz with possession with intent to deliver cannabis, a Class 1 felony, and five counts of unlawful use of weapons by a felon, Class 2 felonies carrying a mandatory prison term of three to 14 years in prison for Cruz if he's convicted. The penalties are enhanced because of prior convictions Cruz has from Lake County for possession with intent to deliver cocaine and felony driving under the influence, Rietz said.
Police also arrested Cruz's roommate, Charles B. Christakis, 53, because he had been seen putting the cannabis in a cooler in the bed of the truck, Morgan said.
Morgan said even though Cruz had sublet the residence in the 1000 block of South Cottage Grove, he still had control over the detached garage where the guns were found.
"We are initiating procedures with regard to forfeiture of Cruz's residence at 1401 S. Cottage Grove, Urbana," said Rietz, who applauded the citizen living in the other house which Cruz had sublet for calling police.
"We very much appreciate the citizen who recognized the danger of a garage full of loaded guns and ammunition in a residential neighborhood and was willing to come forward to the Urbana police. There were 23 fully loaded magazines as well as 1,600 rounds of ammunition. It was a powder keg," said Rietz, noting that the safety mechanisms on the weapons were off.
Rietz said she charged Christakis only with possession of cannabis because Cruz told police that Christakis was not involved in dealing it but was involved in helping him move the cannabis after Cruz had learned that police knew about the stolen weapons.