Illinois Police Shut Down Motel That's 'Revolving Door' of Crime

For the second time in three months, local, state and federal agents in East St. Louis raided the Royal Inn Motel.

EAST ST. LOUIS, Ill. -- They called it Operation Royal Flush, and this time they hope it is down the drain.

For the second time in three months, local, state and federal agents raided Royal Inn Motel, 320 N. 10th St., a half block from the East St. Louis School District 189 offices. During the raid about 3 p.m. Tuesday, St. Clair State's Attorney Brendan Kelly said he will move to seize the property.

"Businesses of any kind cannot be used as safe havens for this kind of dangerous criminal activity," Kelly said while wearing a bulletproof vest.

Agents seized two guns and some crack cocaine during the raid. They brought out three brown paper bags of what appeared to be evidence and two flat-screen televisions, and loaded the items into a waiting vehicle.

"We won't continue to tolerate this type of action. It's time for us to clean up," City Manager Deletra Hudson said.

The operation is expected to yield 14 defendants by the time all are found.

The eight people Kelly announced charges against Tuesday are:

-- Bobby Butchee, the hotel manager and already a felon, was charged with three counts of unlawful criminal drug conspiracy, two counts of possession of a firearm and ammunition by a felon, one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance, and two counts of permitting unlawful use of a building. Butchee's is at the St. Clair County Jail on $250,000 bail.

-- Jennifer Cervantez, Butchee's girlfriend who police said lived and worked at the motel, was charged with one count of unlawful possession of a controlled substance. She is at the St. Clair County Jail on $150,000 bail.

-- Vincent McNeil, who has not been arrested yet, is charged with two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance, and one count of distributing a look alike. Bail is set at $150,000.

-- Darnell Murray, also a felon, was not on scene when police arrived. He was charged with two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church. Bail is set at $150,000.

-- Chester Mathis, also a felon and sex offender who no longer has to register, was arrested on the scene and charged with four counts of unlawful delivery of controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church.

-- Virgie Barber was not at the motel when police arrived. He was charged with two counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of a church.

-- Lafayette Kennel, also a felon, was charged with six counts of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance within 1,000 feet of church. His bond is $300,000.

-- Ousmane Kennel-Bey, also a felon and a child sex offenderwho was required to register but had not properly registered, was arrested at the motel. He was charged with one count of unlawful delivery of a controlled substance; bail was set at $250,000.

Six others were arrested during the search also face charges.

Butchee told reporters he had no idea criminal activity was going on at the business.

"I have no access to what goes on in people's rooms -- only in the hallways," Butchee said. He was angry and called the effort to close the motel "fraud and a big show."

A sign with big red letters hung on the wall outside the business that said "No Loitering."

The Royal Inn was also raided Aug. 11 by federal agents and East St. Louis officers. Drugs were found and four people were arrested, including the mother of a baby girl who was in the motel.

"This place has been in operation for over 10 years and has been a revolving door for drugs and prostitution," said Joe Beliveau, Illinois State Police commander for the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois.

The Working Against Violent Elements federal task force, which includes local, state and federal officers, gathered information for five months before the raid.

"If there's illegal drugs and prostitution and anything else illegal going on, we need to get it out of the city and off the streets," East St. Louis Mayor Alvin Parks Jr. said.

Robert Betts, the director of Regulatory Affairs, came to take the motel's business license, meaning it will remain closed. A locksmith from Willage Locksmith Co. changed the locks to the business.

Copyright 2011 - Belleville News-Democrat, Ill.

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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