Man gets prison in pot-farming case
BY BILL BIRD firstname.lastname@example.org November 21, 2012 8:34PM
Updated: December 24, 2012 7:21AM
A man from Naperville has been sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for helping to run a large-scale marijuana-growing operation in downstate Paw Paw.
Eric M. Konrady, 26, was the last of four men to be sentenced in the case, which was cracked early last year in a multiple law enforcement agency probe.
U.S. District Court Judge Philip G. Reinhard on Monday sentenced Konrady to five-year prison terms on felony charges of conspiring to manufacture 100 or more marijuana plants and possessing firearms in furtherance of a drug conspiracy, according to legal records on file in Rockford. The terms will run consecutively, for a total of 10 years.
Following completion of his sentence, Konrady will spend four years on supervised release. Reinhard also fined Konrady $250.
Konrady and three associates were arrested March 26, 2011, by a team of federal, state and local law enforcement agents. The other men were Benjamin F. Garcia, 27, of Aurora; and Donald P. Cipra, 28, and Shannon L. Gregory, 40, both of Paw Paw.
The men were taken into custody inside two houses they rented in Paw Paw. The town lies 50 miles west and south of Naperville.
Authorities seized 458 marijuana plants they found in various stages of growth in the basements of the homes. They also confiscated items used to grow marijuana, as well as a pound of harvested marijuana, $1,100 in cash and 13 firearms.
Those weapons included an AK-47 semiautomatic rifle belonging to Gregory; a Glock semiautomatic handgun found in Cipra’s possession; a Taurus semiautomatic handgun belonging to Konrady; and a Springfield Armory .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun taken from Garcia, according to a 2011 grand jury indictment.
Cipra, Garcia and Gregory previously pleaded guilty to the same charges of which Konrady was convicted. Garcia was sentenced Sept. 14 to nine years in prison, while Cipra and Gregory were both sentenced Oct. 19 to 10-year prison terms.
The case was investigated by the Rockford Resident Agency of the DEA’s Chicago office and the State Police Blackhawk Area Task Force. Sterling police and investigators from the sheriff’s offices of Henry, Lee and Whiteside counties also participated in the probe.