One suspect in marijuana bust has preliminary hearing, other fails to appear

By Blake Schnitker on January 16 at 12:16pm

The two Houston men arrested on New Year’s Eve were scheduled to appear in Morgan County court today.

Back on December 31st of last year, 21-year old Muhammad Usama and 43-year old Syed Fraz Ahmad, both of Houston, were arrested for cannabis trafficking after authorities discovered nearly a half ton of marijuana in their RV at Love’s Travel Stop.

Both Usama and Ahmad were scheduled to appear for preliminary hearings in Morgan County court this morning, however, only one of the two subjects was present. Judge Chris Reif called Ahmad for his preliminary hearing, however, the defendant did not appear in court, and Defense Attorney Rick Cruz indicated that his client had assured him that he would be in court the last time they had spoken. As a result, Assistant State’s Attorney Chad Turner made a motion for a bench warrant for Ahmad, which Judge Reif granted and set for $250-thousand dollars with ten percent to apply.

Following that, Usama was called for his preliminary hearing and appeared in court with Defense Attorney Tom Piper. From there, Assistant State’s Attorney Turner called Lyle Bloomfield to the stand. Bloomfield, who is a Detective with the Morgan County Sheriff’s Office and Inspector with the Illinois State Police, testified that he responded to a call at the Love’s Travel Stop on December 31st, 2017.

Bloomfield indicated that he responded to the Love’s Travel Stop in South Jacksonville upon a request from a Morgan County Sheriff’s Deputy regarding suspicion of an RV. Bloomfield said that after the driver of the vehicle, Ahmad, gave consent, the RV was searched by another Illinois State Trooper, who discovered numerous packages of what appeared to be cannabis in the underneath compartments and back bedroom of the RV. The detective also said that he interrogated both subjects while they were seated in the sheriff’s deputy’s vehicle, and that the driver indicated that the substance discovered was cannabis.

Defense Attorney Piper then questioned Detective Bloomfield, who indicated that his interrogation of Usama in the backseat of the police vehicle was not recorded. During the initial interrogation, Bloomfield says Usama indicated that he was just along for the ride, and that he did not know about the cannabis in the vehicle. However, the detective testified that, in the interrogation of Ahmad, the second suspect indicated that he was the cousin of Usama, and that Usama was aware of the cannabis. According to Bloomfield, Ahmad’s interrogation indicated that he was going to pay Usama $5-thousand dollars for his participation, though he did not tell Usama of his plans to pay him.

After hearing questioning from both sides, Piper entered a plea of not guilty on behalf of Usama and requested a trial by jury. Judge Reif indicated that there was enough evidence to keep Usama in custody at this time, and set his next court date for March 7th at 9 a.m.