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3 suspects plead guilty, 11 have trials

Authorities kept arrest records secret at first

Published: Monday, Oct. 7, 2013 1:15 a.m. CDT

MORRISON – Authorities often issue news releases when they charge a group of people with drug crimes. 

That wasn’t the case earlier in the summer. 

Fourteen were charged with drug crimes as a result of an investigation by the Blackhawk Area Task Force, a group of area police agencies that cooperate in drug inquiries.

Three of the suspects have pleaded guilty so far. Two of them received short jail sentences, while another was sent to prison. Ten others have trials set for November, while one will get his day in court in December. 

The Illinois attorney general’s office is handling the cases.

No announcements were made about their arrests.

On June 6, Sauk Valley Media found out about them in early June when a woman called to express concern that the county jail wasn’t adequately addressing her jailed brother’s health problems. She also complained the task force was keeping quiet about the arrests. 

That same day, the jail confirmed that her brother was in the lockup. The circuit clerk’s office said court records for the man and other defendants in the investigation were suppressed because authorities didn’t want to tip off other possible suspects.

Later that day, though, the state police, which participates in the task force, allowed the court documents to go public. 

The online records show that the suspects’ charges dated from 2011 and 2012. It wasn’t clear why they were taken into custody in summer 2013.

A task force official didn’t return a call for comment.

According to online court records, these are the statuses for the suspects:

• Lisa Echartea, 39, pleaded guilty to delivery of 500 to 2,000 grams of marijuana and attempted delivery of 500 to 2,000 grams of marijuana. She received 72 days in jail, with credit for time served.

• Vanessa Echartea, 37, pleaded guilty to delivery of 1 to 15 grams of cocaine and delivery of 30 to 500 grams. She received 180 days in jail, with credit for time served.

• Andrew Fenton, 35, was charged with delivery of 30 to 500 grams of marijuana and conspiracy. His trial is set for November. 

• Ryan Fenton, 26, was charged with delivery of cocaine near a school and conspiracy to deliver near a school. 

• Cris Garza, 45, pleaded guilty to delivery of 500 to 2,000 grams of marijuana and possession of 10 to 30 grams of marijuana. She received 80 days in jail, with credit for time served. 

• Juan M. Gonzales, 41, was charged with delivery of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana, delivery of 15 to 100 grams of marijuana, conspiracy to deliver more than 5,000 grams and conspiracy to deliver more than 5,000 grams of marijuana. His trial is set for December. 

• Sherman Hopkins, 79, was charged with delivery of 30 to 500 grams of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and possession of 500 to 2,000 grams of marijuana. His trial is set for November. 

• William Maloney, 32, was charged with conspiracy to deliver 1 to 15 grams of cocaine and narcotics near a school or park. His trial is set for November. 

• Cory Olalde, 36, was charged with delivery of 500 to 2,000 grams of marijuana and money laundering. His trial is set for November. 

• Joshua Rascon, 38, pleaded guilty to possession of 30 to 500 grams of marijuana. He was sentenced to 2 years in prison. 

• James Sigel, 39, was charged with delivery of cocaine and conspiracy. His trial is set for November.

• Curtis Smith, 62, was charged with delivery of 500 to 2,000 grams of marijuana, conspiracy and possession of 10 to 30 grams of marijuana. His trial is set for November.

• Joe Waldschmidt, 57, was charged with 30 to 500 grams of marijuana, possession of drug paraphernalia and conspiracy. His trial is set for November.

• Johnny Ward was charged with delivery of 1 to 15 grams of cocaine and delivery of cocaine near a school or park.

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