Following a two-year investigation, three men are charged with operating what prosecutors called a marijuana “trafficking organization,” which netted over $1 million in assets, court records show.
Matthew D. Lilla, 36, of the 4300 block of North Sawyer Avenue in Chicago, was charged with trafficking more than 2,500 grams of marijuana and possession with intent to deliver more than 5,000 grams of marijuana, each a Class X felony, as well as calculated criminal cannabis conspiracy and four counts of money laundering, according to the complaint filed in the McHenry County courthouse.
Mark R. Bennett Jr., 31, of the 300 block of Council Trail in Lake in the Hills, was charged with four counts of money laundering, a Class 2 felony, and four counts of forgery, a Class 3 felony, according to the complaint.
A third man Michael A. Ferrante, 32, of the 11600 block of Hawthorne Way in Huntley, was charged with trafficking more than 2,500 grams of marijuana and possession with the intent to deliver more than 5,000 grams of marijuana, each a Class X felony, as well as money laundering and calculated criminal marijuana conspiracy, according to the complaint.
Class X felonies can carry six to 30 years in prison and are not probational. Class 2 felonies can result in a prison sentence of three to seven years but are also probational.
Lilla was arrested and taken into custody of the McHenry County jail on Tuesday. He is being held on a $200,000 bond, which means he would need to post 10%, or $20,000.
Prosecutors are set to ask a judge Friday to require Lilla to show proof that whatever money is posted toward his bond comes from legitimate sources and is not tied to his alleged crimes.
In their motion, prosecutors wrote that over the last two years, the McHenry County Sheriff’s Office had been conducting an investigation into a “cannabis trafficking organization within McHenry County,” which resulted in Lilla and Bennett’s arrest.
Lilla is accused of “orchestrating” the delivery of “large amounts” of marijuana into Illinois, using “various storage units, industrial warehouses and houses to not only store illicit drugs, but also the proceeds of his illegal operation,” the motion states.
On Oct. 18, an “associate and a co-defendant” was driving a van with about 583 pounds of marijuana inside when he was pulled over in North Dakota during a traffic stop.
He “was in communication with (Lilla) and was on his way back to Illinois, specifically the McHenry County area,” according to the motion.
Authorities allege the man picked up the marijuana at Lilla’s direction, the motion states.
A search of a residence Lilla owns in McHenry County on Oct. 18 turned up “numerous pounds” of marijuana, drug ledgers, other packaging materials and cash.
Police then searched three storage units rented by Lilla on Oct. 13 and found more cash.
They seized well over $1 million in assets and have “not been unable to locate any legitimate source of income,” according to the motion. A mortgage application Lilla signed in June states that he has “a monthly income of $8,683.08,” according to the motion.
In the criminal complaint charging Bennett, he is accused of taking about $20,000 from a safe belonging to Lilla, knowing the money came from trafficking narcotics, and used that money to give Lilla “partial ownership” of MB3 LLC. Bennett is listed as the company’s owner on its website.
The complaint also alleges that on or about Sept. 22, Bennett used $20,000 of the alleged drug-related income to buy a 2009 Dodge truck and $30,000 on or about Oct. 11 to “obtain a van used to advance the criminal drug activity from which the cash was derived.”
Bennett also is accused of generating false earning statements for Ferrante for pay periods in September and October, so that Ferrante could obtain a loan, according to the complaint.
Ferrante, due in court Wednesday, also is accused of allegedly deposited $34,990 on March 25, 2020, in multiple ATMs throughout the county, according to the complaint.
Ferrante is in the custody of the McHenry County jail in lieu of a $200,000 bond, of which he would need to post 10% to be released. Bennett will turn himself in on Wednesday, according to a motion to advance his case.
Attorneys for Bennett and Lilla declined to comment. Ferrante is being represented by the McHenry County Public Defender’s Office, which were unable to be reached Friday.