Pubdate: Sun, 07 Oct 2007
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2007 The News-Gazette
Author: Mary Schenk
Bookmark: (Asset Forfeiture)
Bookmark: (Cocaine)


URBANA - If a criminal conviction, the potential  loss of freedom and
a ruined reputation aren't enough  to get drug dealers to say no to
the lucrative trade,  how about homelessness?

Since June, the Champaign County state's attorney's  office has
succeeded in taking from their owners three  homes where drug dealing
was going on. The homes are  now the property of the Illinois State
Police and will  be sold, with the proceeds divided among law

The one in Champaign, which belonged to Urbana  restaurateur Michael
Timpone, is close to being sold.  The other two are in Urbana. One was
listed Sept. 28  with a real estate agent, but the other needs a lot
of  work before it will be ready to sell, according to  Master Sgt.
William Colbrook, manager of the asset  forfeiture section of the
Illinois State Police.

"It's a way to send a message to those who use and  distribute illegal
drugs," said Champaign County  State's Attorney Julia Rietz of her
office's plan to  seize the assets of criminals.

A side benefit is that the county stands to make a bit  - not a lot -
of money from the sales, all  of which are governed by the Drug Asset
Forfeiture  Procedure Act.

Assistant State's Attorney Susan McGrath, who has  shepherded the
forfeitures, said the county hopes to  get about $15,000 out of the
sale of the Timpone home  at 315 S. Russell St., C, believed to be
worth  $100,535.

This home at 506 E. Illinois St. in Urbana, is one of  three in
Champaign County used for drug dealing that  have been seized by the
state's attorney's office. By  Robin Scholz

She's guessing that the other houses at 2413 E. Green  St., U, and 506
E. Illinois St., U, also may net about  $15,000 each.

Mortgages and other liens against the properties have  to be paid
first. Anything left over is divided as  outlined by statute: 65
percent to the police agency  that seized it; 12 1/2 percent to the
office of the  state's attorney who prosecuted; 12 1/2 percent to the
state appellate prosecutor; and 10 percent to Illinois  State Police.

The East Illinois Street property was owned by Roger  Armstrong, and
the East Green Street house was owned by  Shelly Melby. They and
Timpone were all charged with  drug-related crimes.

In August, Armstrong pleaded guilty to possessing  cocaine in April
and was sentenced to 18 months in  prison. Another count of permitting
the unlawful use of  a building for drug sales was dismissed.

Melby pleaded guilty Wednesday to unlawful delivery of  a controlled
substance for selling cocaine from her  Green Street home in May and
was sentenced to 30 months  of probation and drug treatment.

Timpone and his wife, Trudy Timpone, were both arrested  in May 2006
by Urbana police; Michael Timpone was  arrested for possession of
crack cocaine, a charge that  was dismissed when a judge ruled the
police search was  improper.

However, police continued to investigate the Timpones  for alleged
drug dealing. In the complaint for  forfeiture of the property, the
state alleges that a  confidential source working with the sheriff's
office  bought cocaine from Trudy Timpone at the Russell Street  home
on at least three occasions in October and  November 2006.

In June, Trudy Timpone pleaded guilty to delivery of a  controlled
substance for selling crack from the house  in October 2006. She is
serving a sentence of  probation.

Michael Timpone, who managed the Jolly Roger restaurant  in downtown
Urbana, was also charged in January 2007  with writing a bad check to
an employee of the  now-closed restaurant and possession of drug
paraphernalia for having a crack pipe. In August, he  pleaded guilty
to misdemeanor theft by deception and  was sentenced to probation.

McGrath said Timpone did not fight the seizure of his  home in court.
Melby and Armstrong challenged the  seizure of their houses, but a
judge ruled evidence  showed their homes were being used for drug
dealing and  they lost.

Colbrook, who had to go to great lengths to get  Timpone's renters'
personal effects out of the house,  said Michael Timpone was "one of
the nicest" people  he's ever had to deal with on a forfeiture.

"He didn't agree with it because it was his house, but  he and I and
Trudy got along just fine," Colbrook said.

Colbrook and three other members of his nine-employee  unit in
Springfield often have to go into homes that  have been seized, clean
them up and move things out.

"We don't wear our nicest clothes when we go in the  first time," he
said, adding he has a commercial  driver's license and can drive the
moving truck.

Colbrook said he went in Timpone's Russell Street home  and
Armstrong's house on Illinois Street and found both  were a mess.

The upstairs portion of the Timpone home where Trudy  Timpone lived
had "discarded furniture, appliances,  clothing and just general junk.
The basement had been  inhabited by renters. It was in much better
condition.  The upstairs was in much worse condition. We had to  take
a grain scoop and a broom to clean up the  upstairs," he said.

"Most often, when we take over a drug-forfeited  property, the
property is not in the best-maintained  condition," Colbrook said.

It's not every day that the state troopers have to act  as
professional cleaners and movers. Among the items  most frequently
seized by police fighting drug dealers  are cash and vehicles,
Colbrook said.

In a recent Rock Island County case, Colbrook said,  authorities
obtained washers, dryers, refrigerators,  big-screen televisions,
exercise equipment, electronics  and jewelry, proving by a
preponderance of the evidence  – that is, more likely than not
– that the  items were purchased with drug money.

He said of the 102 counties in Illinois, only Rock  Island and
Winnebago counties have come close to  Champaign in terms of trying to
forfeit houses.

"You guys are definitely ahead of the curve. I believe  the state's
attorney's office, Susan McGrath and Julia  Rietz, have a progressive
view on drug asset  forfeiture," Colbrook said.

Rietz said she intends to continue pursuing house  forfeitures where

McGrath investigated seizing the Urbana home of John  Haywood, accused
of juvenile pimping, because he was  allegedly using the house in the
commission of a crime.  But she learned there were more outstanding
liens  against the home on Airport Road than the house is  actually
worth, prompting the office not to pursue  forfeiture. McGrath said
the bank foreclosed and got  the house back.
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