Seven UI fraternity members arrested after yearlong drug probe

Seven UI fraternity members arrested after yearlong drug probe

CHAMPAIGN — Seven members of a University of Illinois fraternity have been slapped with a variety of criminal charges in the wake of a yearlong police investigation into drug sales.

UI Detective Sgt. Joe McCullough said police have been using informants since April 2013 to buy cannabis and MDMA, also known as Ecstasy, from at least four members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity, 209 E. Armory St., C. More arrests are expected, he said.

The police investigation, which is ongoing, culminated late Thursday night when officers conducted court-approved searches at the same time of one member's room at the fraternity house and of the entire two-story house at 60 E. Chalmers St., C, where several members live.

McCullough said the searches turned up MDMA, suspected LSD, cannabis, psilocybin, empty nitrous oxide cartridges, other drug paraphernalia and cash.

The biggest cache was found in a room at the fraternity on Armory where Michael Genovese, 20, was living. Genovese was not there when police arrived about 11 p.m. but showed up later, McCullough said.

In his room, police found 40 grams — about 1 1/2 ounces — of what McCullough described as "raw MDMA," which amounts to about 400 doses of the amphetamine.

They also found a safe in his room that had 22 hits of suspected LSD, empty gelatin capsules commonly used to put MDMA powder in, seven MDMA capsules and just under $300.

Of all the charges filed Friday by the state's attorney's office, those against Genovese were the most severe. He faces two Class X felony counts: one of possession with intent to deliver Ecstasy and one of possession with intent to deliver LSD. If convicted, he faces a mandatory prison term of six to 30 years. Judge Richard Klaus set his bond at $75,000 and told him to be back in court with his own attorney May 23.

McCullough said in the house on Chalmers, police found MDMA pills, cocaine residue, a scale, Adderal pills, dozens of gelatin capsules for packaging MDMA, suspected LSD, cannabis grinders, pipes, cannabis concealed in a cereal box, a large tank of nitrous oxide (laughing gas), and a box containing about 1,000 discarded nitrous oxide cartridges.

The men living in that home who were charged are:

— James Spotanski, 22, for possession of 15 to 100 pills of MDMA, a Class 1 felony.

— Matthew J. Voss, 22, for possession of less than 200 grams of amphetamine, a Class 4 felony.

— Robert Hughes, 22, for possession of less than 15 grams of psilocybin, also known as magic mushrooms, a Class 4 felony.

— Lukas J. Korte, 21, for possession of less than 15 grams of cocaine, a Class 4 felony.

— Michael Varel, 22, for possession of a cannabis pipe, a Class A misdemeanor.

— Matthew Daum, 21, for possession of a cannabis pipe, a Class A misdemeanor.

McCullough said police had made controlled buys from Spotanski and Voss starting in April 2013. The buys had been going on for a while from several men living at 60 E. Chamlmers when police figured out that they were all members of the Lambda Chi Alpha fraternity.

In October, police obtained a search warrant for the Chalmers Street house but McCullough said they did not find anything illegal. Police suspected that the men had been tipped about the investigation.

Lending credence to that theory was Voss' statement to an officer Friday morning that "they thought they became untouchable," McCullough said.

"There was a gap in the time we were able to get people in there," McCullough said after the October raid. "The case reopened a couple of months later when we received information that they were starting to sell again."

McCullough said police decided to move Thursday after learning a couple of days ago of a new shipment of drugs to the group.

"It was surprising that right before finals week, they took possession of that amount," he said.

Friday was the first day of finals for UI students. Most of the men arrested are UI seniors, McCullough said.

McCullough said the Ecstasy seized from Genovese has a street value of $10 to $20 per capsule, or anywhere from $4,000 to $8,000.

On Friday, Klaus released Hughes, Korte, and Voss on their own recognizance and told them to be back in court June 24.

He set Spotanski's bond at $25,000 and told him to be back in court with an attorney May 23.

Daum and Varel posted bond on their misdemeanor offenses earlier Friday and were released from jail. They are also scheduled to be back in court with attorneys May 23.

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Local Yocal wrote on May 10, 2014 at 10:05 am
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They are untouchable, afterall they are the white middle/upper class. They all will have charges dropped or reduced down and given no more than probation and hefty fines (unlike what would happen for locals and particularly if they were African American).

Doubtful Miss Mary will follow through with a subsequent report and watch how lenient her friend Julia is on the bros.

A rainmaker ($$$) of a case for the courthouse though.

UI2014 wrote on May 16, 2014 at 12:05 pm

What a black eye for this fraternity and the University of Illinois.  Hats off to the hardworking police investigators who have made an example out of the drug dealers and users who think they are untouchable.  As a parent, this must be devastating to watch their kids make these terrible choices and now suffer the consequences.  However, if there is an upside, these arrests may have prevented future overdoses and deaths at the U of I campus.  My wish is that the culture of all the fraternities on campus change to a zero tolerance policy of drugs.

UIUC News wrote on May 23, 2014 at 12:05 am

It is very disappointing to see that many different news outlets seem to be reporting false/unverified accounts of what happened. They are very quick to make the fraternities look like the bad guys on campus. I wouldn't be surprised if a fraternity like this sued for defamation. Though these charges are very serious and probably fairly accurate, it is important to make sure both sides of the story are heard and accounted for before an article like this is written. I couldn't find a comment from the fraternity for a very long time, but I found something on their facebook page recently. Here is the statement that Lambda Chi released:

One active undergraduate member of Lambda Chi Alpha living in the 209 East Armory House was arrested on May 9, 2014 for possession of controlled substances with intent to deliver. Illegal substances and paraphernalia were found in a safe hidden in the closet of his room.

Six other former or current members of Lambda Chi Alpha who do not live in the House were also arrested at an apartment house at First and Chalmers. This residence has no formal or informal connection to Lambda Chi Alpha, other than the fact that several former or out-of-house members have chosen to rent and live in that apartment. The two who have been charged with the most serious offenses of possession with intent to deliver had been expelled (or had resigned under threat of expulsion) from Lambda Chi Alpha last year for violation of its zero tolerance policy. One of those arrested on a lesser charge had also been expelled last year, and another individual who was arrested already had graduated from the University and therefore was no longer a member of the Active Chapter. The Active Chapter will convene disciplinary proceedings on Sunday, May 11, 2014 as respects the one Active member who resided in the Chapter House and the out-of-house members who have been implicated in the police matter.

The Alumni Board and Active Chapter acted swiftly following a search of the House in October 2013. Although no charges were filed last year, disciplinary hearings were held and five members were expelled or resigned from the Chapter - including three of those arrested this week. The Alumni Association also required that the active members attend two mandatory programs on drug awareness and the Fraternity’s zero tolerance policy. The information from the prior police investigations and the earlier disciplinary proceedings cast no suspicion on the active member living in the Chapter House who was arrested this week. At present we have no evidence that drug sales occurred at the Chapter House, only that drugs were being stored there by the individual who was arrested. 

The Chapter officers acted swiftly and appropriately the night of the arrest, immediately informing the office of the University Dean of Students, officials at our International Fraternity office, the Chapter Advisor and the Alumni Association leadership. Chi Zeta has over 2200 initiated members and over 1300 living alumni. The Alumni Association leadership will continue to work with University Administration and the Lambda Chi Alpha International to assure that its zero tolerance policies will be followed and that the actions of a few do not jeopardize the brotherhood shared by the many.

The Officers of Alumni Association Chi Zeta Lambda Chi Alpha

May 10, 2014

This seems like a very different story than was originally reported. It's funny how media can skew their story in order to make their point. Though I do not condone or advocate what some of these individuals were doing, I feel bad for the members of the fraternity who are adversely affected by these false reports. It seems like these gentlemen are being punished for doing the correct thing and dismissing the offenders immediately after the time of the original incident. It is very disappointing that the reputation of the fraternity is being tarnished by incorrect media reports.