Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said any money retained by his office after an Illinois state trooper found $727,000 in suspected drug cartel money in a 60-year-old man’s vehicle will be used to assist local communities.
“We put a whole lot of it back into local law enforcement and local communities,” Gibbons said during a Judiciary Committee meeting May 3.
“Honestly, it’s a fun way to use it,” he added. “It’s great to take it from drug cartels and then go and use it to beat them down even better. It’s one of the most enjoyable parts of budgeting. It’s the only enjoyable part.”
Gibbons explained during the meeting that there is a statutory formula for how forfeited cash is divided up. He said 65 percent of the money goes to the arresting agency or agencies, 10 percent goes to the Illinois State Police for managing the process, and the remaining 25 percent is divided evenly between the State’s Attorney’s Office and the Public Prosecutor’s Office for handling any appeals.
The State’s Attorney’s Office’s percentage of the $727,000 would come out to roughly $90,875.
Once those funds are received, the State’s Attorney’s Office then budgets that money for requests such as software upgrades. Gibbons also said some salaries are paid with the money, which is reflected in the budget.
For example, Gibbons said his office budgeted $50,000 in asset forfeiture money this year to fund construction costs for the LPR camera system being placed all over the county.
His office is also looking into assisting the Madison County Sheriff’s Department in funding “an interesting piece of investigative software.”
The money was found after a state trooper pulled over Kenneth Ottrix of Las Vegas on April 4 on Interstate 70 near Marine for allegedly making an improper pass.
ISP Special Agent Tyson Wagner wrote in an affidavit that the trooper who pulled over Ottrix “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. K9 ‘Riggs’ indicated the presence of narcotics on the 2014 Ford Flex.”
Gibbons said during the Judiciary Committee meeting that “it became obvious very quickly – usually it does with these large scale mules –that there was something not right going on.”
“It makes a person very nervous to transport $727,000 in drug cartel money,” he added. “It ought to make you nervous on both ends.”
The K9 didn’t find any drugs, but troopers found the cash in vacuum-sealed packages in a hidden compartment in the spare tire area of the vehicle, Wagner wrote.
Madison County prosecutors charged Ottrix with two felony counts of money laundering.
“Which is basically taking funds that are illegally gained and trying to, and using a process to try to hide their origin to try to hide the fact that they are illegally gained,” Gibbons said. “That creates a criminal charge.”
“And simultaneously with the criminal charge, there is also a civil asset forfeiture process because we can tie these proceeds through the drug trade, the trade that the drug cartels are running through Madison County and much of Illinois,” he added. “And so that money is seized, counted, [and] accounted for.”
Gibbons said there is a civil court process depending on the situation. The State’s Attorney’s Office would file a case, give notice to everybody involved and give them an opportunity to be heard.
However, Ottrix entered a plea agreement and did not contest the forfeiture of the cash. As part of his deal, he will serve two years of probation, according to his attorney Jessica Koester.
“In this particular case, the individual who was carrying the money did not identify anyone else as the owner, certainly, at least not openly, and certainly did not claim the money for himself,” Gibbons said.
Gibbons previously said more resources are needed to fight against drugs.
“This case represents a drop in the bucket of a river of illegal narcotics and illegal proceeds flowing straight through our county every day of the year. The Mexican drug cartels pour tons and tons of cocaine, heroin, fentanyl and methamphetamine into our country and reap the illegal proceeds in large amounts, just like this one,” he said. “We need more resources to fight against the massive current of the drug trade, and these funds will be put to good use to help arm us for that ongoing battle.”
Ottrix has a criminal history dating back to the 1980s, with prosecutions for drug-trafficking, auto theft, assault, attempted robbery and gun-related charges.