A Creve Coeur man and his son both pleaded guilty this week to federal charges that they tried to hide a 1961 Corvette that authorities sought as forfeiture in a drug case against the son.
Joseph Zilch, 73, and his son, Jerrod, 41, both face up to five years in prison when sentenced Dec. 17 by Senior U.S. District Judge Joe B. McDade.
Jerrod Zilch pleaded guilty Thursday, while his father pleaded blind, or without a written plea agreement, on Wednesday. Both pleaded to conspiring to prevent seizure of forfeited property.
The two men conspired with others from 2006 to March 2011, to hide the vehicle from federal authorities, who sought it as part of the forfeiture order that accompanied Jerrod Zilch’s sentence.
Joseph Zilch remains free on bond pending his sentencing. Jerrod Zilch is serving a nearly 20-year prison term he began in 2006 for distribution of cocaine and marijuana in Tazewell County.
“Operation Rattlesnake” Inmate and Father
Charged with Obstructing Forfeiture of Corvette
Peoria, Ill. – A grand jury has charged a federal inmate, Jerrod J. Zilch, 40, and his father, Joseph Zilch, 72, of Creve Coeur, Ill., with conspiracy to obstruct a forfeiture proceeding and to prevent seizure of forfeited property, a 1961 Corvette. In addition, Joseph Zilch is also charged with one count each of perjury and making a false statement.
Jerrod Zilch is currently serving a 235-month (19 years, 7 months) federal prison sentence for conspiracy to distribute cocaine and marijuana in Tazewell county from 1995 to 2004. Zilch was charged under “Operation Rattlesnake,” a task force effort that targeted distribution of cocaine and marijuana in Tazewell county nearly a decade ago. Zilch pled guilty in 2005 and was sentenced in August 2006. As part of the sentence, Zilch was ordered to forfeit various properties, including a 1961 Corvette, to the government.
The indictment, which was returned by the grand jury in December 2011, alleges that the father and son conspired together and with others, from the summer of 2006 to about Mar. 30, 2011, to obstruct the forfeiture of the Corvette by altering, removing parts, and concealing the car. Further, from about February 2011 to Mar. 30, 2011, the two men conspired to attempt to prevent and impair the government’s authority to take the vehicle.
According to the indictment, sometime between May 2004 and August 2006, Jerrod Zilch had the Corvette moved to a location unknown to the government. In about December 2009, Joseph Zilch allegedly gave false information about the car to a Drug Enforcement Administration agent that the car had burned in a garage fire. In letters dated in early 2011 and by phone calls, the indictment further alleges that Jerrod Zilch directed others to remove parts from the car.
The indictment also alleges that Joseph Zilch committed perjury when he testified under oath, on or about May 9, 2007. At the hearing, the government was attempting to determine the whereabouts of a 1961 Corvette which at the time was subject to a court order of forfeiture. According to the indictment, Zilch testified that he had last seen the car five years before, when in fact, the indictment alleges that in the summer of 2006, Joseph Zilch assisted others to move the Corvette from its location at a residence near Spring lake, Ill., to another property where it remained until late March 2011, when Joseph Zilch allegedly directed its removal to his property on Sheridan Road in Pekin, Ill.
Joseph Zilch was released on bond following his initial appearance and arraignment in federal court in Peoria on Jan. 31, before U.S. Magistrate Judge John A. Gorman. Jerrod Zilch appeared in court on Jan. 24, and he remains in the custody of the U.S. Marshals Service. Trial for both men is scheduled on Mar. 26, 2012, before Senior U.S. District Judge Joe Billy McDade.
If convicted, for conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, the penalty is up to 20 years in prison and fines of up to $250,000. For conspiracy to prevent seizure; perjury; and, making a false statement, each offense carries a penalty of up to five years in prison and fines of up to $5,000.
Members of the public are reminded that an indictment is merely an accusation; the defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty.
The charges are the result of an investigation by the Drug Enforcement Administration. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney John H. Campbell.