Sycamore drug smuggler who fled country given 16-year prison sentence

Shortly after a Sycamore man pleaded guilty to his involvement in a cross-country pot smuggling operation, the 51-year-old convicted felon boarded a plane to Shanghai, China, and never returned, prosecutors said.

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt on Thursday sentenced Andrzej Hryniewicki to 16 years in prison for a possessing more than 300 pounds of marijuana tied a 2014 drug bust at Wonder Lake’s Galt Airport.

The DeKalb County resident isn’t likely to serve his prison term anytime soon, however. Exactly three weeks after he entered a guilty plea in McHenry County court, Hryniewicki bought a round-trip ticket to China, prosecutors said. As of Thursday, he never arrived in San Francisco as expected.

On March 19, Hryniewicki accepted a plea deal from the McHenry County State’s Attorney’s Office. That same day, prosecutors asked to revoke Hryniewicki’s bond and send him back to the McHenry County Jail until his May 10 sentencing hearing.

Wilbrandt denied the motion, however, and when the hearing date arrived Hryniewicki was nowhere to be found.

His defense attorney, Matthew Amarin, said at the time that he hadn’t been in contact with Hryniewicki and didn’t know where he was.

Wilbrandt issued a warrant for Hryniewicki’s arrest, and the sentencing was continued to Thursday.

In the meantime, prosecutors filed a request to sentence Hryniewicki even if he didn’t show up to court.

Having already continued the sentencing once, prosecutors proceeded with the hearing Thursday morning and sentenced Hryniewicki to 16 years in prison.

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security report attached to prosecutors’ request claimed that Hryniewicki boarded United Airlines flight number 835 from Chicago on April 8, but did not get on his May 7 return flight to the U.S. There is no record of him returning to the country at all since his April 8 departure.

Hryniewicki, 51, of the 27000 block of Hunters Lane, Sycamore, was charged in November 2014 with multiple drug felonies, including marijuana trafficking, after police said he transported about $1.12 million worth of marijuana in a private airplane that came from California and landed at Galt Airport.

The pilot whom Hryniewicki recruited to make trips between California and Wonder Lake avoided prosecution by working with police, and helping them stake out the airplane hangar where Hryniewicki ultimately was arrested.

Looking Inside Out: An Introduction to Indoor Air Quality

On Thursday, June 6, at 5:10 P.M., the City of DeKalb Citizens’ Environmental Commission will sponsor a presentation on major sources of indoor air pollution. The presentation will be held in the City of DeKalb Council Chambers at 200 South Fourth Street.

Sycamore man who fled country sentenced to prison on felony marijuana charge

Shortly after a Sycamore man pleaded guilty to his involvement in a cross-country pot smuggling operation, the 51-year-old convicted felon boarded a plane to Shanghai, China and never returned, prosecutors say.

McHenry County Judge Robert Wilbrandt on Thursday sentenced Andrzej Hryniewicki to 16 years in prison for a possessing more than 300 pounds of marijuana tied a 2014 drug bust at Wonder Lake's Galt Airport.

The DeKalb County resident isn't likely to serve his prison term anytime soon, however.

Exactly three weeks after he entered a guilty plea in McHenry County court, Hryniewicki purchased a round-trip ticket to China, prosecutors said. As of Thursday, he never arrived in San Francisco, California as expected.

On March 19, Hryniewicki accepted a plea deal from the McHenry County State's Attorney's Office. That same day, prosecutors asked to revoke Hryniewicki’s bond and send him back to the McHenry County Jail until his May 10 sentencing hearing.

Wilbrandt denied the motion, however, and when the hearing date arrived Hryniewicki was no where to be found.

His defense attorney, Matthew Amarin, said at the time that he hadn't been in contact with Hryniewicki and didn't know where he was.

Wilbrandt issued a warrant for Hryniewicki's arrest, and the sentencing was continued to Thursday.

In the meantime, prosecutors filed a request to sentence Hryniewicki even if he didn't show up to court.

Having already continued the sentencing once, prosecutors proceeded with the hearing Thursday morning and sentenced Hryniewicki to 16 years in prison.

A U.S. Department of Homeland Security report attached to prosecutors' request claimed that Hryniewicki boarded United Airlines flight number 835 from Chicago on April 8, but did not get on his May 7 return flight to the United States. There is no record of him returning to the country at all since his April 8 departure.

Hryniewicki, 51, of the 27000 block of Hunters Lane, Sycamore, was charged in November 2014 with multiple drug felonies, including marijuana trafficking, after police said he transported about $1.12 million worth of marijuana in a private airplane that came from California and landed at Galt Airport.

The pilot whom Hryniewicki recruited to make trips between California and Wonder Lake avoided prosecution by working with police, and helping them stake out the airplane hangar where Hryniewicki was ultimately arrested.

City of DeKalb Exploring Relocation of City Hall

The DeKalb Park District and the City of DeKalb announced that the City Council is interested in relocating “city hall” to the Park District’s downtown property at 164 E. Lincoln Highway.

Peace and Barber Greene crash sends 2 to hospital

DeKALB – Two people were taken to Northwestern Medicine Kishwaukee Hospital after a two-car head-on crash at the intersection of Peace and Barber Greene roads.

Police and firefighters responded to a call about 2 p.m. for the crash. Sgt. Christian Kuhns of the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office said a red Ford F-150 heading east on Barber Greene Road collided with a maroon Lexus sport utility vehicle heading north on Peace Road.

The driver and passenger of the Lexus were taken to the hospital, Kuhns said. The driver of the red Ford F-150 was not injured.

The crash is under investigation.

Sheriff’s deputies were redirecting traffic along both Peace and Barber Greene roads after the crash, leading to traffic backups at the intersection.

Veterans seeking to pass the torch

SYCAMORE – A local veterans group is looking to hand off a 30-year tradition to a new group, but it needs the community’s help to find it.

The former DeKalb County Chapter of VietNow, a national veterans organization, wants a new group to take over setting up the 130 American flags outside of the courthouse for future Memorial and Veterans Day ceremonies, as well as storing and maintaining the flags throughout the year. The group meets informally since the dissolution of the national organization in 2017.

Immediate help is needed to erect the flags at 4 p.m. Thursday for Memorial Day weekend, but former VietNow member Frank Beierlotzer said he does not have a deadline for another group to take over flag duties entirely and would prefer to hand the flags off to other veterans.

“Anyone who wants to take them and do well with them can do so at anytime,” Beierlotzer said. “We’re not just going to give it to someone who wants to store it and never use it.”

The courthouse flag ceremony started modestly with 30 flags, but has grown to encompass 130 flags, Beierlotzer said. The flags are stored in a 12-foot trailer throughout the year.

A settlement with former Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan in 2017 dissolved the VietNow’s national headquarters after the organization was found to have only contributed a fraction of its donations to charitable causes, according to a news release from the Illinois Attorney General’s office.

Beierlotzer, who served in the U.S. Army from 1964 to 1967 and in the National Guard from 1988 to 1994, said the DeKalb County chapter of VietNow was dissolved in December and no longer wishes to continue its flag duties.

Those who are interested in taking over for VietNow can contact Beierlotzer at 815-901-3834 or ffb66@juno.com.

District 427 ready to begin search for new superintendent

SYCAMORE – The search for a new superintendent for Sycamore Sychool District 427 is primed to begin this summer after the district board, parents and other stakeholders lay out the characteristics of the ideal candidate.

The district’s search will begin in July with plans to hire a superintendent in January 2020, said Jim Dombek, board president. The new hire will then work under Kathy Countryman, the current superintendent, for the remainder of the school year.

Countryman plans to retire at the end of the 2019-2020 school year.

“[Countryman] has a great rapport with staff, teachers, parents and the district, and I hope she will be able to transition that with the new superintendent,” Dombek said.

The board hired former district Superintendent Bob Hammond to undertake the search. Hammond has already begun the first part of the process by having the board and community members fill out a survey detailing the characteristics they would like to see in a new superintendent.

The board has completed its portion of the survey. Dombek said they want a superintendent who “promotes a positive and professional environment that includes mutual trust and respect among faculty, staff, administrators, the board and stakeholders.”

As a 25-year veteran of the district, Countryman has made a lot of connections within the Sycamore community that Dombek said he doesn’t want to see disappear.

“She knows the district well, and during that tenure she’s been able to meet a lot of people,” Dombek said.

Countryman said she has full confidence in the board as they begin their search for her replacement.

“They have a lot of longevity on the board, so they’re very committed,” Countryman said. “And our parents are amazing and very active in the school district. They see it as a part of a healthy community”

Most importantly, Countryman said, whomever the new superintendent will be, the students will continue to push for new subject areas and ways to learn, such as coding and turning metal welding into art.

“When I listen to where these kids are going, their plans and some of the jobs and interests they’ve had are things we never even heard of,” she said.

The next meeting of the District 427 Board is 7 p.m. May 28 at Sycamore Middle School.

California: DOJ Submits Proposed Regulations Regarding Upcoming Ammunition Transfer Background Check Requirements to Office of Administrative Law

Beginning July 1, 2019, all ammunition transactions in the state of California will be subject to a background check requirement.  But in order to implement this requirement, the California Department of Justice (“DOJ”) must first adopt necessary regulations which, as of yesterday, have been submitted to the Office of Administrative Law (“OAL”) for review.

NRA, gun rights groups using New York City rules to seek expansion of Second Amendment in Supreme Court

Gun rights groups are using New York City restrictions that may be repealed as a rallying cry to press the Supreme Court for a major expansion of its Second Amendment precedents.
The effort is based on the hope that the court's new, five-member conservative majority will be more sympathetic to gun rights, in much the same way that anti-abortion groups are hoping for a high court crackdown on reproductive rights.

Shelter’s director pleads not guilty to animal neglect charges

SYCAMORE – The executive director of a Genoa animal shelter pleaded not guilty to charges of animal neglect Tuesday in DeKalb County court.

Roberta R. Shoaf, 66, of the 700 block of Carlson Street, Sycamore, was charged in January with failure to provide veterinary care when needed to prevent suffering. If convicted, she could face court supervision, up to a maximum penalty of a $1,500 fine and up to six months in jail.

Shoaf is executive director of the Barn on Baseline animal shelter in Genoa, as well as president of the board of directors for the DeKalb County Animal Welfare League, which oversees the shelter. When reached for comment, the board of directors said they would not comment on personnel matters.

Richard Schmack, a former DeKalb County state’s attorney, is representing Shoaf, and entered a not guilty plea on her behalf to Judge Thomas Doherty. Several people attended the brief hearing to support Shoaf, who did not speak in court.

On the way out of the courtroom, surrounded by her supporters, both Shoaf and Schmack declined to comment. She is due back in court July 2 for a pretrial hearing.

Members of the local group Bert’s Brigade also attended the hearing, with some wearing animal advocacy pins.

The group was formed by Drew Alexander and Katy Schertz, of Sycamore, after the latter adopted a chihuahua named Bert from the shelter, and have alleged the dog was neglected at the shelter.

“Bert’s Brigade members remain totally committed to seeing this through to its end,” Alexander said Tuesday, “and having Mrs. Shoaf take accountability for her failure to provide the requisite vet care for Bert and Roscoe, the two animals who are subjects of the count.”

Alexander filed a complaint with the DeKalb County Sheriff’s Office against the shelter in June. The Barn on Baseline was fined $500 by the state for the violation and the money was paid by the shelter Nov. 19, closing the case involving Bert.

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