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Three Rock Island Men Previously Arrested in Shooting Incident Face Federal Drug Conspiracy, Weapons Charges. Fourth Defendant Arrested in Drug Conspiracy

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
March 29, 2011

Rock Island, Ill. – Three Rock Island, Ill., men who were previously arrested and charged in Rock Island County related to an alleged December 2010 shooting made their initial appearances in federal court this afternoon on charges of conspiring to manufacture and distribute crack cocaine as well as gun charges. A grand jury returned the indictment last week; however, the indictment had remained sealed pending the arrest of the fourth defendant who is also charged with participating in the alleged drug conspiracy.

The indictment charges the four men with one count of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of crack cocaine. The indictment alleges that the conspiracy began in approximately January 2010 and continued to Dec. 16, 2010.

Those charged are:

  • Cornelius Sergio Houston, 24, a.k.a. “Serge,” of the 4500 block of 13th Street;
  • Devell Lee Johnson, 22, a.k.a. “Little D,” “Bart,” of the 1200 block of Glenhurst Court;
  • Thomas Aaron Ellis, Jr., 22, a.k.a. “Tom Tom,” of the 1500 block of 7th Street, Rock Island, Ill.; and,
  • Jay Michael Arnold, 39, of the 1100 block of 26th Street, Moline, Ill.

Houston, Johnson and Ellis, who were arrested on Dec. 16, 2010, are also charged with one count of possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and with one count of using and carrying a firearm during a drug trafficking crime. The indictment alleges that on Dec. 16, 2010, the three men were in possession of a Taurus model PT111 9mm handgun in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime and that the firearm was discharged during the commission of the alleged drug trafficking crime.

Houston is also charged, in count four of the indictment, with being a felon in possession of firearm. The indictment alleges that on Dec. 16, 2010, Houston possessed a rifle after having previously been convicted in Illinois of the felony offenses of manufacture / delivery of a controlled substance and aggravated fleeing and eluding.

Law enforcement agencies investigating the charges include the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives; the Quad Cities Federal Gang Task Force; The Quad Cities Metropolitan Enforcement Group; the Rock Island County Integrity Task Force; Illinois State Police; Rock Island Police Department; Moline Police Department; East Moline Police Department; and the Davenport Police Department. Also assisting in the investigation were the Rock Island County State’s Attorney’s Office and the Scott County, Iowa, Attorney’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John K. Mehochko.

The defendants appeared this afternoon in federal court in Peoria before U.S. Magistrate Judge John A. Gorman. Houston, Johnson, and Ellis waived a detention hearing and were ordered to remain detained in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. A detention hearing has been set for Arnold on April 4, in Rock Island, before U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas J. Shields.

Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; each defendant is presumed innocent until proven guilty.

If convicted, the offense of conspiracy to manufacture, distribute and possess with intent to distribute at least 50 grams of crack cocaine carries a mandatory minimum 10 years in prison up to life; if the defendant has one prior felony drug conviction, the statutory penalty is 20 years in prison to life; and if the defendant has two or more prior felony drug convictions, the penalty is a mandatory term of life in prison. For possession of a firearm in furtherance of a drug trafficking crime the mandatory penalty is five years to life to be served consecutive to any term of imprisonment imposed for the underlying drug offense; for using and carrying a firearm which was discharged during a drug trafficking crime the statutory penalty is 10 years to life in prison. For possession of a firearm by a felon the maximum statutory penalty is 10 years in prison.

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