Three of four people charged in a Quad-City heroin conspiracy appeared Monday in U.S. District Court, Rock Island, and local authorities expect more arrests as the investigation unfolds.
Jamie L. Phillips, 39, of Carbon Cliff and Jennifer C. Rea, 20, and Dana W. Sondej, 28, both of Moline, appeared in court on one count of conspiracy to distribute and possess with intent to distribute heroin.
Phillips also is charged with eight additional counts of distribution of heroin.
The fourth defendant, Kenneth L. Holman, 50, of East Moline is charged with one count of conspiracy. He is in the hospital for an unknown reason and didn’t appear for Monday’s initial hearing, court records state.
All four are accused of being involved in a heroin distribution conspiracy that lasted from October 2010 to last September.
The indictment states they distributed at least 100 grams of heroin. Quad-City Metropolitan Enforcement Group director Kevin Winslow said the amount could be much more as suspects made multiple trips to Chicago over two years to buy heroin and bring it back to the Quad-Cities to sell or use.
He said the investigation is ongoing, and he anticipates more arrests.
“This is just the first phase of the investigation,” Winslow said. “Our agents were able to determine these subjects were responsible for distributing heroin from the Chicago area.”
The investigation led first to Phillips’ arrest in October. MEG executed simultaneous search warrants at 4912 7th St., Moline, and 438 19th St., East Moline. In June, undercover agents infiltrated a criminal organization and made multiple purchases of powder heroin over several months, he said.
Phillips initially was charged in Rock Island County Circuit Court with one count of possession of a controlled substance and seven counts of possession with intent to distribute a controlled substance. Those charges were dismissed when his case went to the federal level.
A fifth suspect, Phillip A. Hartshorn, 32, of Coal Valley, was arrested at the same time as Phillips, and he awaits trial on a state charge of possession of a controlled substance.
Holman, Rea and Sondej were taken into federal custody last week.
Heroin addiction is growing in the Quad-Cities, Winslow said.
“I foresee this getting a lot worse before it gets better,” he said. “The availability of heroin is more prevalent. We’re seeing people initially addicted to meth or crack using heroin as an alternative. We’re seeing more groups travel to Chicago to get heroin. We have more heroin cases open.”
Users today cut across all socio-economic groups, he said, making prevention efforts more difficult. “Professionals are functional heroin users. High school kids addicted to pain killers get addicted to heroin. There are addicts in their early 20s as well as late 30s.”
Most heroin users today begin by snorting the drug, which is easier and more accessible than using needles, Winslow said.
Another trend shows drug dealers trading methamphetamine for heroin and vice versa, Winslow said.
“Both subgroups have crossed and formed, something we didn’t see five years ago,” he said.
Police also are seeing an increase in daytime retail thefts and home invasions in rural parts of the Quad-Cities as severe addicts are looking for anything of value they can turn to profit or trade in order to feed their growing addictions, Winslow said.
“They drive out to rural areas, see a house, knock on the door, and if no one answers, they push their way in,” he said. “It’s not uncommon as we investigate these conspiracies to find out they’re doing multiple retail thefts and home invasions. They even steal from each other and family members to feed their addictions.”