Sweet deal: keep the cash and let the perp go

By The Madison County Record | Apr 25, 2019

“It’s probably drug money.” No kidding, Sherlock?

If a state trooper pulls a car over on the interstate, the driver looks nervous, a police dog detects the scent of drugs, and a search of the vehicle reveals a stash of cash in plastic bags hidden behind the spare tire, it’s a pretty safe bet it’s drug money.

Nevertheless, Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons couldn’t resist stating the obvious at a recent forfeiture hearing involving more than $700,000 found in a vehicle stopped by a trooper early this month on Interstate 70 near Marine.

According to an account of the incident, the trooper “noted the driver’s nervous behavior, stated travel itinerary, and prior criminal history as reason to deploy his K9 for an open-air sniff of the vehicle [which] indicated the presence of narcotics....”

Though no drugs were found, a search of the vehicle did turn up the stash of cash.

The driver, 60-year-old Kenneth Ottrix of Las Vegas, has a lengthy criminal record that includes prosecutions for drug-trafficking, auto theft, assault, attempted robbery, and gun-related charges.

Gibbons, et al. demanded that Ottrix forfeit the money and he agreed to do so in return for a plea deal. This is where the story gets interesting.

Ottrix pled guilty to two felony counts of money laundering, but got to go free. Oh, sure, he’s on probation for two years, but he will serve no time in prison. None whatsoever.

In exchange, Gibbons and other law enforcement officials get to keep the money, with 65 percent of the windfall going to the arresting agency, 10 percent to Illinois State Police, 12.5 percent to the county prosecutor’s office, and 12.5 percent to the Illinois Office of the State’s Attorney Appellate Prosecutor.

“We need more resources to fight against the massive current of the drug trade,” Gibbons said in justification of the sweet deal, “and these funds will be put to good use to help arm us for that ongoing battle.”

Meanwhile, a dangerous criminal is back on the street.

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