STERLING – Wiretaps were a big help in the drug investigation that led to the arrests of 14 suspects over the summer, an official says.
“This was a much more involved case than usual,” said Todd Shaver of the Blackhawk Area Task Force, which is a group of area police agencies that cooperate in drug inquiries. “This case involved the normal things such as surveillance and wiretaps. It also involved wiretaps.
“It spun off into investigations in other jurisdictions,” said Shaver, a state police master sergeant based in Sterling.
The charges against the 14 suspects were filed in Whiteside County Court.
In 2011, police got judicial approval of wiretaps, Shaver said. Most of the suspects were charged with dealing marijuana or cocaine in 2012, but weren’t arrested until last summer.
“Wiretaps make for very fruitful cases, but they take a long time,” he said. “[The suspects] weren’t big fish, but they’ve been around doing this for a while.”
The case resulted in information that led to suspects in other areas, including the suburbs, he said.
During the investigation, officers happened upon people buying drugs, but not selling them.
“They were on the periphery,” Shaver said. “We weren’t too concerned about them.”
Of the 14 suspects, all but one were charged with dealing drugs.
Because the case expanded to other areas, Shaver said, the state attorney general’s office is in charge of the prosecution.
In early June, Sauk Valley Media became aware of the charges when a woman called to express concern that the county jail wasn’t adequately addressing her jailed brother’s health problems. She also complained that 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 said the court files involving the suspects were “suppressed.” Later that day, though, state police allowed the documents to go public.
Shaver said the task force didn’t want to prematurely release information for fear it would jeopardize other investigations.
“We’re not covering anything up,” he said. “That’s not who we are.”