MORRISON – The sister of a former Rock Falls detective charged with theft is among five people accused of dealing cocaine and marijuana in the Sauk Valley for more than 2 years.
On May 17, members of a local drug task force seized drugs, three cars, and $17,248 in cash from the Sterling home of Violeta "Violet" Jaramillo, 45, and Jody Canas, 44, court records show.
That same day, Detective Sgt. Veronica Jaramillo, 43, was arrested and charged with theft and official misconduct, both felonies, for stealing $1,741 from the Rock Falls Police Department's evidence vault, according to Whiteside County Court records.
Veronica Jaramillo, who resigned from the police force May 27, is not mentioned in court documents detailing the purported drug conspiracy.
UPDATE: No charges had been filed in the drug conspiracy as of Friday afternoon, according to court and jail records and the state attorney general's office.
A spokeswoman for the attorney general's office would not say if and when charges would be filed, citing the ongoing investigation.
The State Police Blackhawk Area Task Force is investigating, and based much of its findings on monitored phone conversations and other surveillance.
The attorney general's office is supervising the investigation and would handle any prosecution.
Violeta Jaramillo and Canas, her live-in boyfriend, are accused in the documents of selling cocaine and marijuana, and of using the proceeds to buy cars, real estate, drugs and The Grapevine Wine and Martini Bar, which Jaramillo owns at 205 W. Second St. in Rock Falls. Investigators say the pair often had the help of others they describe as co-defendants in the conspiracy.
Police confiscated more than 2 pounds of marijuana, worth more than $20,000, and 2 ounces of cocaine from the Sterling home on Timber Drive owned by Violeta Jaramillo. The three vehicles seized were a black 2014 Corvette Stingray convertible, a black 2006 Chevrolet Impala, and a white 1991 Pontiac Firebird.
According to a task force report explaining why officers thought they had probable cause to take those assets, which was filed May 26, upheld by a judge the next day, and obtained by Sauk Valley Media this week:
In February 2014, Canas was identified as a suspect in a potential drug conspiracy. About 2 years later, between Dec. 16 and March 7, three controlled cocaine buys, with a combined street value of about $4,100, were made from Canas at the Timber Drive home.
Then in April, acting on "an intercept of telephonic wire communications," police seized 1.75 pounds of marijuana, worth about $20,400, from Lynn H. "Scootie" Robinett of Dixon, who investigators say acquired the drugs for Canas, "to minimize his [Canas'] contact with law enforcement." No record of charges against Robinett could be found in this case as of Thursday.
On April 18, Canas is recorded meeting with "co-conspiring partners" at The Grapevine, when the bar was closed, "to exchange currency related to the ongoing drug enterprise," the report said.
When task force members searched the Timber Drive home on May 17, they found $17,248 in rubber-banded bundles in a shaving kit in the bathroom, as well as 2 ounces of cocaine and 2 pounds of pot. Much of the marijuana was in plain view, and the house smelled of it, they said.
Task force members note that Jaramillo claimed about $100,000 in income in 2015, including a $9,000 loss on the bar, while the only verifiable income for Canas, who was shot in the face in 2003 and is vision-impaired, is receiving Social Security disability payments and food stamps.
And yet, according to the documents:
• On April 20, 2007, Canas bought a house in Harmon, assessed at $91,000, from Tammy Wilson for $50,000 in an unadvertised sale. Canas sold the home on Feb. 3, 2014, to Rawshu'a Inc. for an undisclosed amount.
On May 6 and 7, Rawshu'a owner Brandon "Joshua" Carter and Canas were recorded talking on the phone about a parcel being delivered to Wilson and eventually to Canas that investigators believe contained marijuana.
No record of charges against Wilson or Carter could be found in this case as of Thursday.
(In February 2014, Carter was charged in Whiteside County with possession of more than 2,000 but less than 5,000 grams of marijuana; he pleaded guilty in June 2015 and was sentenced to 4 years' probation.)
• On Jan. 15, 2010, Violeta Jaramillo bought the home on Timber Drive. According to online Remax records, it sold for $212,000.
• On Sept. 30, 2013, Canas bought a house on West 20th Street in Rock Falls for $28,500, financing only about $7,600. He now rents it to Donald Godare, 54, also described as a co-defendant. Again, SVM could find no record of charges against Godare.
• On June 19, 2014, Violeta Jaramillo bought the bar; records show she obtained a $65,000 bank mortgage.
• On May 20, 2015, she bought the Stingray, using $5,000 in cash, a $16,000 personal check and a $14,000 check from the bar account – even though she reported the bar was losing money.
• On Oct. 8, Violeta Jaramillo bought a home on West 12th Street in Sterling for $42,000; she since has been making regular $1,000 cash payments to the owner for $22,000 still owed.
• On May 25, Violeta Jaramillo paid a plumber $3,500 in cash for work at the bar.
In addition, Canas told task force members that the Stingray belonged to his "wife," the Firebird belonged to his mother, and the Impala belonged to Violeta's parents.
Although the registered owner of the Firebird is his mother, Natividad Canas, and the registered owner of the Impala is the Jaramillos' father, Apolinar Jaramillo, both of Rock Falls, Canas used the Impala as his daily vehicle, including while making drug deals; spent several thousand dollars upgrading the Firebird; and paid for maintenance, insurance and storage of the Stingray, the report said.
He also told task force members the home belonged to Violeta, as did the bar, although he is heard in taped phone conversations referring to the bar as his, and he also hired and directed servicemen to do repairs at the bar.
Task force member Inspector Douglas Wade, author of the report, noted that drug dealers often try to conceal their identities, have vehicles and other property listed in the names of others to conceal illicit financial or other activities, and use lower-level members of the conspiracy to handle drug transportation and transactions, all to limit their exposure.
Canas and Violeta Jaramillo "knowingly share mutual investments," Wade wrote, adding that he believes the $17,428 "constitutes drug proceeds, and that Jody Canas and Violeta Jaramillo have used drug proceeds to purchase the vehicles mentioned above and real estate, to include The Grapevine Wine and Martini Bar."
The two are represented by the Pignatelli & Associates law firm in Rock Falls.
Mertes & Mertes law firm in Sterling represents Veronica Jaramillo, who has a preliminary hearing Monday in the theft case.
Veronica Jaramillo was the lead investigator in the Dec. 6 death of Paul Rodney Depotter, 27, of Rock Falls, who died of a fatal heroin overdose.
According to police documents sent to Sauk Valley Media by his mother, Penny Depotter, 46, of Dixon, $1,741 was found on Depotter's body in his Rock Falls apartment that day and was entered into evidence. It's the same amount Veronica Jaramillo is accused of taking.
Prosecutors say Jaramillo used the money she stole from the evidence vault, to which she had a key, to pay utility bills.
Jaramillo, a law enforcement officer for 11 years, is free on $20,000 bond.
All Whiteside County judges have recused themselves to avoid a possible conflict of interest; the case will be heard by 14th Judicial Circuit Associate Judge Ted Kutsunis.
CANAS' CRIMINAL HISTORY
Jody Canas has a criminal history in Whiteside County that involves drugs and violence.
• In May 1989, he was charged with felony intimidation and misdemeanor assaulting an officer, resisting an officer and interfering with emergency communication. He was sentenced to a year's probation for the officer-involved charges; the other two were dropped.
• In April 1990, a jury found him guilty of armed violence, aggravated battery and battery for cutting the throat of another man during a fight. He was sentenced to 14 years in prison.
• In December 1996, he was charged with aggravated battery causing great bodily harm and aggravated battery in a public place, both felonies, and misdemeanor battery/making physical contact. He was sentenced to 2 years' probation on the misdemeanor; the felonies were dismissed.
• In September 1999, he was charged with three felonies: possession of 15 to 100 grams of cocaine, manufacture or delivery of 30 to 500 grams of marijuana, and possession of 30 to 500 grams of marijuana. He was found guilty of the latter charge, the least serious of the three, and sentenced to 2 years.