Drug suspect is among sheriff’s ‘Most Wanted’

A 21-year-old man from Naperville who allegedly took flight after two friends went to prison on narcotics charges is being sought by the DuPage County Sheriff’s Department.

Michael J. Bradford failed to appear Nov. 14 in court for a hearing in the case, in which he is charged with two felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. A bond forfeiture warrant was issued that day by DuPage County Circuit Court Judge George J. Bakalis, and the matter has been in limbo since then.

Three Naperville police patrol officers curbed Bradford’s vehicle just before 11 p.m. May 26 near Raymond Drive and River Road on the city’s northwest side. Bradford was traveling that night with ex-convicts Richard W. Esler and Kevin M. Pepping, the latter of whom had been out of prison for only three weeks.

Copies of written police reports obtained by The Sun through a Freedom of Information Act request revealed one of the officers stopped Bradford’s vehicle because of its “defective/loud exhaust (system.)” Bradford told police he, Esler and Pepping were retuning to Naperville after having spent part of the evening in Chicago, according to the reports.

Bradford, after “barely passing” the sobriety tests conducted by the officers, allegedly admitted having a hypodermic needle in his shirt pocket. The needle had been secretly passed to him in the car by Esler, who was on parole at the time, the reports stated.

A subsequent search of the vehicle yielded 13 small, clear plastic bags containing “purplish-white powder,” the reports indicated. Police also seized “a small, white, rock-like substance” and a brown paper bag that contained the bottom halves of two aluminum cans, “one having burnt residue on the inside.”

Esler told police the trio earlier that afternoon went to the Sugar Grove home of Pepping’s mother, where they obtained money. They then drove to the parking lot of a supermarket on Chicago’s west side and a man sold them the powder, which proved to be heroin, according to the reports. Esler told police he used the drug three to four times a day.

Pepping corroborated Esler’s narrative while undergoing questioning at the police station, the reports stated. Bradford allegedly did likewise.

The heroin in the bags totaled 3.9 grams, the reports indicated. The rock-like substance proved to be .4 grams of crack cocaine.

Court records showed Pepping, 26, of Aurora, pleaded guilty Oct. 1 to a felony charge of possession of a controlled substance, and was sentenced on Oct. 29 to four years in prison. A jury on Oct. 9 convicted the 22-year-old Esler of the same charge, with Bakalis on Oct. 30 sentencing him to three years in prison, according to records.

Pepping had been released from prison on May 10, after serving an 18-month sentence for possession of a controlled substance in Hanover Park. He was also sentenced to four years in prison for a 2006 burglary and another two years in prison in a 2008 drug-possession case in Kane County.

Esler served two years in prison, after being convicted of a January 2011 felony charge of aggravated battery in Aurora. His record also includes convictions for criminal trespass to land, theft of stolen property, criminal damage to property, theft and shoplifting.

Bradford also faces trial in connection with a June 2012 incident, during which he and another man allegedly made 20 bogus 911 calls in rapid succession to Naperville’s emergency dispatch center.

He and a different man were also arrested last June, after they allegedly stole at least two bicycles in Naperville and then pawned them.

Additionally, Bradford in early August allegedly stole property from his parents’ home. Police, after responding to the home at the parents’ request, allegedly found six hypodermic needles hidden in a wall in the younger Bradford’s bedroom.

A sheriff’s office release stated Bradford stands 6 feet tall and weighs 150 pounds, and has brown hair and brown eyes. He last lived on the 1800 block of Paddington Avenue in Naperville’s Brookdale neighborhood.

Those who believe they know Bradford’s whereabouts or who have information about him were asked to call the sheriff’s office at 630-407-2400. More information on Bradford and other alleged DuPage County fugitives is available at http://www.dupagesheriff.org/mostwanted/.