Another Alorton Official Guilty of Federal Crimes
The Superintendent of the Street Department for the Village of Alorton, pled guilty to being a felon in possession of firearm ammunition and for making false statements to federal law enforcement officers, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of Illinois, Stephen R. Wigginton, announced today. Ronnie D. Cummings, 39, was indicted on January 19, 2012, as part of an ongoing probe into allegations of systemic corruption within the municipality.
Cummings’s plea is the latest in a string of federal prosecutions of officials from the Village of Alorton. The former police chief, Michael Baxton, Sr. pled guilty on January 19, 2012, to stealing evidence and lying to federal investigators. The former mayor, Randy McCallum, pled guilty to a four-count Information on February 24, 2012, for Attempted Possession with the Intent to Deliver a Controlled Substance (crack cocaine), Theft or Conversion of Government Property, Attempting to Smuggle Contraband into a Correctional Facility that Houses Inmates Pursuant to an Agreement with the Attorney General, and Making False Statements to Federal Law Enforcement Officers.
Ronnie Cummings was investigated after a Village of Alorton police officer who was assisting the ongoing federal public corruption investigation in an undercover capacity learned that Cummings carried a firearm in his city vehicle, despite a 2001 felony conviction for distribution of a controlled substance.
In the fall of 2011, Cummings told the undercover officer that he wanted to obtain an extra “clip” for his gun. A “clip” is a common reference to the magazine that holds ammunition inside of a semi-automatic handgun. Federal law provides for a sentencing enhancement in this case because Cummings’ magazine holds 16 rounds of ammunition and is deemed a “high capacity” magazine. Prior testimony in the case revealed that during a recorded conversation that Cummings stated that he wanted an additional large capacity magazine. Cummings stated that he intended to fire his gun through a bag that would catch spent shell casings.
On January 4, 2012, the undercover officer drove to Cummings’ address in Alorton for the purpose of discussing obtaining an extra firearm magazine for Cummings. The officer told Cummings that he needed to know the model number of his gun to ensure that he obtained a proper magazine that would fit into his gun. In response, Cummings handed the officer a 9mm magazine loaded with live 9mm ammunition. To further clarify which particular model of gun he owned, the officer asked Cummings to provide him with the model number of his gun. Cummings reached into a closet and retrieved a semi-automatic handgun. Cummings examined the firearm and told the officer that it was a Smith and Wesson model 9VE. Cummings maintained control over the firearm, but the officer left the residence with the magazine loaded with 9 mm ammunition. The undercover officer went directly to meet an FBI agent and he turned the magazine and ammunition over to federal authorities. The entire event was secretly recorded. Prior court testimony revealed that Cummings’ fingerprints were found on the magazine.
Cummings also pled guilty to lying to federal agents when he was questioned on January 5, 2012. During that interview, Cummings falsely stated that he had never possessed any firearms or firearms ammunition after becoming a convicted felon, when in truth and in fact Cummings possessed a magazine containing fourteen 9 mm cartridges for his Smith & Wesson, 9 millimeter firearm.
The crime of Unlawful Possession of a Firearm or Firearm Ammunition is punishable by not more than 10 years’ imprisonment, a fine of up to $250,000, and 3 years’ Supervised Release. The crime of making a false statement to a federal law enforcement officer is punishable by up to 5 years’ imprisonment, a $250,000 fine, and not more than 3 years’ supervised release upon release from prison. However, the United States Sentencing Guidelines must be applied to the case and considered by the Court during sentencing. Sentencing has been scheduled for June 25, 2012.
The investigation was conducted through the Metro East Public Corruption Task Force by agents from the Internal Revenue Service, the Illinois State Police, St. Clair County Sheriff’s Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Steven D. Weinhoeft and Norman R. Smith.