TUSCOLA — A Texas man caught in Douglas County almost three years ago with a load of cannabis bound for Wisconsin faces up to 60 years in prison when he's sentenced.
A Douglas County jury last week convicted Antonio Sustaita, 38, of Beeville, Texas, of cannabis trafficking, unlawful possession with intent to deliver cannabis and unlawful possession of cannabis. The charges stemmed from his arrest on Feb. 4, 2010, on Interstate 57 north of Arcola.
State's Attorney Kevin Nolan said Illinois State Trooper Heather Howard saw that the northbound pickup truck, driven by co-defendant Moises Trevino, had a cracked windshield and an air freshener hanging from the rear view mirror that obstructed the driver's ability to see.
After stopping the truck and noting that Trevino and Sustaita had stories that "didn't make sense" and were acting "peculiar," she called for Trooper Chris Owen and his canine partner.
The dog indicated that the truck might have drugs in it. Nolan said Trevino gave the troopers permission to search. After finding nothing in the passenger compartment or bed, Owen looked under the truck and noticed that the gas tank had been worked on. Using a scope to reach into the tank, he found bundles of tightly wrapped green leafy material.
Nolan said 42 bricks of suspected cannabis, weighing about 73 pounds, were pulled from the tank.
He said Sustaita eventually confessed to police that the cannabis was his and that he was en route to Milwaukee with it at the direction of his cousin. He was to be paid $60,000 for the cannabis and was to get a portion of the money when he returned to Texas with it.
The Illinois State Crime lab tested enough of the substance pulled from the gas tank to confirm that more than 5,000 grams of it was positive for cannabis — enough to sustain a Class X felony charge of cannabis trafficking. Conviction of that carries a sentence ranging from 12 to 60 years in prison.
Trevino, 29, pleaded guilty in July 2010 to possession with intent to deliver cannabis and was sentenced to six years in prison.
Nolan said after Sustaita posted bond, he disappeared for more than a year. He resurfaced in Texas when he was convicted of driving under the influence and sentenced to prison. He was returned to Douglas County last year when he finished his Texas prison sentence.
Defense attorney Harvey Welch did not call any witnesses on Sustaita's behalf, nor did Sustaita testify.
Judge Mike Carroll set sentencing for Feb. 28.