By Charles Keeshan | Daily Herald Staff
A Palatine man accused of running a multimillion-dollar pot-growing operation inside several rented homes must explain how he came up with $10,000 bail to go free while awaiting trial, a McHenry County judge ruled Monday.
Despite objections from Phillip Koeckritz’s defense, Judge Joseph Condon said county prosecutors have a legal right to inquire as to how the defendant came up with that much cash while in jail, and just a few weeks after swearing he was too poor to afford a lawyer.
“It may be a reasonable explanation as the defense says,” Condon said. “But it’s still a question, and the state has a right to ask the question.”
Koeckritz, 35, of the 200 block of North Bothwell Street, faces six felony drug charges stemming from accusations he and longtime family friend Raymond Holland grew thousands of marijuana plants valued by police at as much as $5 million out of homes they rented in McHenry, Woodstock and Johnsburg.
About three weeks after his arrest, Koeckritz was released from the McHenry County jail after posting $10,000 cash bail. County prosecutors suspected something amiss, filing court papers claiming the money came from criminal activity.
“He asked for a special public defender because he couldn’t afford a lawyer, then a few days later posts ($10,000) bail,” Assistant McHenry County State’s Attorney Kirk Chrzanowski said in court Monday. “If that’s not reasonable cause (to question the source), I don’t know what is.”
Koeckritz attorney George Kililis called those claims “disingenuous,” pointing out that prosecutors have known for weeks that his client comes from a very wealthy family.
“It’s disingenuous for them to say they have no idea where the money is coming from when they brought forward information to the court that the defendant’s father, good for him, is one of the wealthiest men in the nation,” Kililis said.
In a written response, Kililis detailed and documented where the bail money came from: an $8,000 loan from his father, and $2,000 from the sale or pawning of family jewelry.
The defense likely will present that evidence Dec. 28 when Condon is scheduled to hold a hearing on the questions over Koeckritz’s bail.
Koeckritz faces charges of unlawful production of cannabis plants, conspiracy, criminal damage to property and criminal fortification of a building, stemming from a nine-month investigation into what’s believed to be the largest-ever indoor marijuana-growing operation in McHenry County.
Holland, 52, who has addresses in Bloomingdale Township and Palatine, remains in custody on a $60,000 bond, faces similar charges. Both men have pleaded not guilty.