Seven UI fraternity members arrested after yearlong drug probe

 

Listen to this article

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.

Reporter

Mary Schenk is a reporter covering police, courts and breaking news at The News-Gazette. Her email is mschenk@news-gazette.com, and you can follow her on Twitter (@schenk).