Ex-UI student gets 4 years probation for role in cocaine-selling operation

Ex-UI student gets 4 years probation for role in cocaine-selling operation

URBANA — A former University of Illinois student who admitted his role in a cocaine-selling operation uncovered by police two years ago has been sentenced to four years of probation.

"I accept that I am an addict," said Daniel Sagan, 22, adding that he also has taken "full responsibility" for the damage he's done to his family and others by his actions.

Sagan pleaded guilty in March to possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance, admitting that in October 2017, he had between 1 and 15 grams of cocaine in his campus apartment on John Street that he intended to sell.

In return, more serious charges alleging that he had between 100 and 400 grams of the drug for sale were dismissed.

Sagan was the last of three men arrested in October 2017 to have their cases resolved in the courtroom of Judge Tom Difanis.

Oscar Aguado-Cuevas, 29, who listed an address in the 2600 block of Brownfield Road, Urbana, received the same sentence in December after pleading guilty the month before to possession with intent to deliver 4 to 15 grams of cocaine.

He had served 311 days in the county jail and despite aggravating evidence from UI police that he had been sending money to Mexico, Difanis rejected the suggestion that Aguado-Cuevas had ties to Mexican drug cartels.

"I'm not sure how many members of a cartel leave a paper trail of receipts," Difanis said.

Adolfo Robles-Valdez, 31, of Arizona, who was reportedly working with Aguado-Cuevas, had his criminal charges dismissed in September after Difanis agreed that his right to a speedy trial had been violated.

Assistant State's Attorney Troy Lozar, who inherited the case from another prosecutor who left the state's attorney's office, had UI Police Lt. Joe McCullough testify Tuesday about the operation that police investigated in 2017.

McCullough laid out in general terms how Sagan was the seller of the cocaine while the other men were involved in supplying the drugs to him and collecting the payments. McCullough said that Sagan admitted to police he was selling 5 to 6 ounces of cocaine at a time.

When police searched his apartment on Oct. 1, 2017, Lozar said they found about 392 grams (about 14 ounces) of cocaine with a street value of around $39,000 to $40,000; $1,500 cash; and scales and plastic bags.

Difanis said it's difficult to deter drug addicts with stiff sentences. Acknowledging that Sagan was "pushing a lot of product into our community," the judge said he didn't believe Sagan was the type of criminal who was dangerous in that he would rob or mug others.

"A great many defendants have nothing to lose. Their life is in shambles. This defendant has a lot to lose, as far as his future," he said.

Sagan's attorney, Steve Beckett of Urbana, presented Difanis with several letters of support for his client. He argued that Sagan has been through residential treatment and is now in aftercare and is employed full-time, taking all the appropriate steps to get his life on track.

Sagan was expelled from the UI, where he was a junior when he was arrested.

Beckett sought a sentence of TASC probation that could have allowed Sagan to escape a conviction if he successfully completed it and if the judge agreed that no conviction should be entered.

However, Difanis opted for regular probation, meaning Sagan will have the conviction on his record.

Lozar said given the significant amount of cocaine involved, he recommended prison but did not specify a number of years. He noted that Sagan had no criminal record and had acted appropriately since his arrest.

Sagan told the judge he has been "humbled" by the experience of his prosecution and hoped that society would give him a second chance.

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