An Illinois man already wanted on two arrest warrants has been charged with a handful of felony drug offenses after police officers found more than 200 marijuana plants inside an Elburn warehouse he was renting.
The man charged with growing the marijuana plants is Maskin Gokhman, 36, of the 1500 block of Meadow View Lane in Grayslake. New charges against Gokhman include manufacture or delivery of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana, a class X felony; possession of more than 5,000 grams of marijuana, a class 1 felony; production or possession of more than 200 marijuana plants, a class 1 felony; manufacture or delivery of more than 30 but less than 500 grams of marijuana, a class 3 felony; and possession of more than 100 grams but not more than 500 grams of marijuana, a class 4 felony.
Gokhman was already subject to warrants for charges of driving under the influence in McHenry County and violating an order of protection in Lake County.
Over the course of a couple of weeks, someone who lives in the area told a Kane County deputy about unusual patterns of people coming and going and said it smelled like marijuana outside the warehouse on the 200 block of West Nebraska Street, said Kane County Sheriff spokesman Lt. Patrick Gengler.
The deputy, with his police dog, was monitoring the building because of the suspicious activity when Gokhman left, Gengler said.
The deputy followed Gokhman’s car, which ultimately pulled into a Dunkin’ Donuts parking lot, Gengler said. After about a half hour, the deputy went up and started talking to the man.
“He told him he was out there visiting friends,” Gengler said “Our deputy knew that wasn’t true.”
At some point, the deputy would have had to ask for Gokhman’s identification, Gengler said. The deputy found out about the two warrants and took Gokhman into custody. He walked his dog outside the car and the dog alerted him to possible marijuana inside, leading to the deputy discovering a half pound of it inside the car, Gengler said.
By the time a judge approved a warrant to search the warehouse, it was late in the day, so the sheriff’s office assigned a deputy to secure the warehouse so they could search it in the daylight, Gengler said. The next morning, Kane County and Elburn police officers went back out and found more than 200 marijuana plants at various stages of growth, plus about 68 pounds of harvested marijuana with a street value of approximately $150,000, according to a news release from the sheriff’s office.
Gengler said they’re still going through items collected at the warehouse, but wasn’t aware of anything indicating the scope of the operation.
“This is one where we are trying to look forward,” Gengler said “We want to figure out where (the marijuana) was headed.”
Unlike cases in which officials know who they’re targeting in a drug investigation, they didn’t know who Gokhman was ahead of time.
“This is one where we didn’t start working on this guy until he was taken into custody,” Gengler said.
Gengler said it’s not the biggest drug bust the Kane County Sheriff’s Office has had, but its up there. And based on what they found, the building could have become a larger-scale operation, he said.
Gengler said officers aren’t sure how many people were involved in the operation or how many customers they had, but it appears to be a wholesale-like business.
He said when he went out to the warehouse, he could smell the marijuana plants from outside.
“It wasn’t like this is hidden in a room in the back,” Gengler said.
When informed of what a renter had been growing in the warehouse, the owner appeared shocked, Gengler said.
Gokhman’s was the only name on the lease, Gengler said.
Though J&R Herra Plumbing and Heating had a sign on the warehouse, the company stopped leasing the property more than four years ago, said Brian Herra, who took over the plumbing and heating business from his father and uncle. He said he was not familiar with the warehouse’s current renter.
Herra said his aunt, Mary Herra, owns the warehouse. Reached by phone, Mary Herra had no comment and referred questions to the sheriff’s office.
The property was most recently transferred in 2011 from a Janet Herra to a Richard L. Herra as the trustee of the trust of Richard L. Herra, according to county assessor records.
A member of the family, Richard L. Herra, was charged in September with soliciting sex from a child online, but the cases appear entirely unrelated, Gengler said. Richard Herra was initially released on cash bond after he was charged, but records show he was taken back into custody days later on new sex abuse charges alleging he committed a sex act with a different child. He has been in the Kane County jail since, with bail at $100,000.
Richard Herra’s attorney, Earl Vergara, said he last spoke to his client about a month ago, but was informed Thursday morning about the marijuana bust at the property owned by Richard’s mother, Mary Herra.
Vergara said Mary Herra is a senior citizen and doesn’t use email much, so before he was arrested in September, Richard Herra had primarily communicated with Gokhman, though Vergara wasn’t sure about the method or degree and frequency of those communications.
None of the family members had been to the property in a long time, Vergara said, adding he would be talking more with the family about the situation later Thursday evening.
“As far as I’m concerned, no family member, including Richard, had knowledge of what was happening in that warehouse,” Vergara said.
Growers often rig together dangerous lighting systems and toxic mold can develop on plants that sit still for too long or collect too much moisture, so the village has red-tagged the warehouse until it’s deemed safe to go back inside, Gengler said.