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600 pounds of pot seized in Kane-McHenry bust

Five people have been charged and about 600 pounds of marijuana seized in a three-month investigation of marijuana trafficking in Kane and McHenry counties, local and federal officials said Thursday.

The marijuana had a street value of about $2.6 million, according to Matt Gainer, director of the DuPage County Metropolitan Enforcement Group.

He said marijuana was being trafficked to the western suburbs, then distributed and sold throughout the Midwest.

“It’s a significant amount, but it’s certainly not a record-setting seizure by any stretch of the imagination,” Gainer said. “Although we dismantled one distribution network, I don’t think about going to declare victory of marijuana.”

Richard G. Ecklund, 48, of the 2700 block of Sperry Court, Batavia; Dean A. Dziuba, 55, 1100 block of Lodgepole Court, Darien; and Matthew A. Westerlin, 28, and Crystal L. Westerlin, 29, both of the 300 block of Nebraska Street, Elburn, all are charged with marijuana trafficking, possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana with intent to deliver, and possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana.

Mary L. Nunez, 57, also of the 2700 block of Sperry Court, Batavia, was charged with marijuana trafficking.

The arrests are the result of a three-month investigation into marijuana trafficking conducted by the federal Drug Enforcement Administration, the DuPage County Metropolitan Enforcement Group, the North Central Narcotics Task Force, Illinois State Police, the DuPage County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Kane County State’s Attorney’s Office.

The North Central Narcotics Task Force said the agencies received information in September about a Kane and McHenry county-based marijuana trafficking operation responsible for transporting hundreds of pounds of marijuana from Arizona to Illinois.

Agents conducted surveillance on the suspects, determined the group’s schedule and its next marijuana shipment, authorities said.

Over several days in November, agents conducted surveillance on the suspects as they traveled from Arizona back to Illinois in four separate vehicles.

Around 8 p.m. Tuesday, they stopped the vehicles in Kane County.

A Toyota Camry was stopped at Jericho Road and Route 47 in Sugar Grove. The other three vehicles — a Lexus ES330, a Buick LaCrosse, and a Chevrolet Tahoe — were stopped on Orchard Road just north of Prairie Street in Aurora.

Seven people were detained, officials said, and a drug-sniffing police dog alerted officers to the Camry and Lexus, where a combined 598 pounds of marijuana was found.

Gainer said he could not comment on how many times the group had made the cross-country trip, because of the on-going investigation.

Agents also searched the homes of Ecklund and Nunez in Batavia and the Westerlins in Elburn, seizing three firearms from the residence in Batavia.

All five suspects appeared in Kane County Court for a bond hearing. Ecklund’s bail was set at $35 million, while the bail for the other four was set at $27 million.

Additional charges related to the seized firearms are pending.

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