Three arrested following bust of alleged insterstate drug ring, more than a year of investigation

2011-11-30T00:01:00Z Three arrested following bust of alleged insterstate drug ring, more than a year of investigationBy NICOLE HARBOUR - H&R Staff Writer Herald-Review.com
November 30, 2011 12:01 am  • 

DECATUR - Bond was set Tuesday for three Decatur men who were arrested Monday on offenses related to their alleged involvement in a narcotics trafficking operation under investigation for more than a year. Decatur police said the operation was responsible for bringing 60 to 100 kilograms of cocaine, with an estimated street value between $600,000 and $1 million, into Illinois since October 2010,

Police arrested Saville D. McKnight, 38; Marcus L. McKnight, 28; and Brandon D. James, 25, between 1:15 and 2:15 p.m. Monday.

Saville McKnight and his cousin, Marcus McKnight, were arrested on preliminary charges of controlled substance trafficking, as well as manufacturing and delivery of nearly 2 pounds of cocaine.

James was arrested on preliminary charges of criminal drug conspiracy and manufacturing/delivery of between 100 and 400 grams of cocaine.

According to a sworn police statement filed in circuit court in support of the charges, Decatur police detective Chad Larner began investigating the operation, known as the Saville McKnight Drug Trafficking Operation, in February 2010.

In May 2011, detectives began to actively conduct surveillance on Saville McKnight's residence in the 100 block of South College Street, and Larner obtained a court order approving the use of an eavesdropping device in regard to Saville McKnight and his alleged co-conspirators, Marcus McKnight and James.

Between June and November of this year, Larner and special agent Richard Dollus of the Springfield Drug Enforcement Agency office used a confidential source equipped with audio and video recording devices to purchase large amounts of crack cocaine from Saville McKnight.

During several meetings, Saville McKnight was overheard talking in detail about his drug trafficking operation.

Larner also became aware that the 38-year-old had orchestrated the delivery of 2 kilograms of cocaine from Dallas, Texas, to Decatur in late June.

Law enforcement agents in Texas told Larner that the 2 kilograms of cocaine had been seized when two Decatur residents were arrested June 24 in Hopkins County, Texas. One of the arrested Decatur residents, who claimed to be previously responsible for trafficking between 60 and 100 grams of cocaine into Decatur from October 2010 to June 24, 2011, contacted Larner in September and provided him with details of the narcotics operation.

Larner and Dollus continued to gather information on the operation through the confidential source, as well as through "trap and trace devices" and a precision data location feature that monitored cellphone calls and determined the location of Saville McKnight and his co-conspirators, according to the sworn police statement.

Thousands of cellphone calls and text messages were monitored by Larner, Dollus and the Decatur Police Department, which provided them with the knowledge that Saville McKnight intended to purchase 27 ounces of cocaine from Tremaine Allen, the brother of Saville McKnight's girlfriend, Elise Allen.

Tremaine Allen was based in Dallas.

Detectives and agents began monitoring Tremaine Allen and established surveillance on him in mid-November. They believed he would be traveling from Dallas to Decatur on a Greyhound bus, and on Nov. 19, detectives boarded the same bus in St. Louis in an undercover capacity.

The detectives eventually made contact with Tremaine Allen after his bus arrived in Springfield.

Allen was determined to have an outstanding traffic warrant and arrested by police. Allen consented to have his luggage searched, and Larner discovered a "suspicious, sealed package" that Allen denied ownership of but which contained nearly 1 kilogram of cocaine.

The investigation from February 2010 to November 2011 not only indicated that Saville McKnight spearheaded the narcotics trafficking operation, but also that Marcus McKnight and James were often present when Saville McKnight sold cocaine and would act under his direction, often as his "right-hand guys."

Saville McKnight and Marcus McKnight were being held at the Macon County Jail on $1 million bond each. James was being held on $500,000 bond.

Decatur police Sgt. Jon Platzbecker said formal charges against the three have not yet been filed by the Macon County State's Attorney's Office.

The law enforcement operation, which also included the Macon County Sheriff's Office, resulted in the arrests of several other suspects allegedly involved in the drug ring. The joint effort seized about 4,000 grams of cocaine, 600 grams of cocaine base crack, 75 pounds of marijuana, three firearms, five vehicles and $100,000 cash.

Police said the investigation is continuing.

nharbour@herald-review.com/421-7963

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