EFFINGHAM, Ill. (WAND) - Four suspected drug dealers are behind bars after Effingham search warrants led to the seizure of drugs, police said. 

The first warrant was served on Aug. 17 at a residence in the 600 block of W. Lawrence Ave. Authorities said they discovered multiple fentanyl capsules, along with a handgun, scales, bags and cannabis plants. They arrested 30-year-old Zachary T. Hodgkin and 28-year-old Alicia M. Kessler, both of Effingham. 

Hodgkin is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (fentanyl/heroin), possession of a controlled substance and possession of a firearm by a felon. Kessler is charged with unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver (fentanyl/heroin) and possession of a controlled substance. 

Unlawful possession of a controlled substance with intent to deliver could mean up to seven years in prison and a maximum fine of $200,000. Unlawful possession of a firearm by a felon, a Class 2 felony charge, could mean three to seven years in prison. Possession of a controlled substance, a Class 4 felony count, could result in a maximum fine of $25,000 and one to three years behind bars. 

“Fentanyl is a powerful and dangerous synthetic opioid that is 50 to 100 more times potent than morphine and can easily lead to overdose deaths," Effingham Police Chief Jason McFarland said. "I sincerely appreciate the combined effort and teamwork of the Effingham Police Department, Effingham Fire Department, Effingham County Sheriff’s Department, Southeastern Illinois Drug Task Force (SEIDTF), and the Illinois Law Enforcement Alarm System (ILEAS). Their relentless pursuit of illegal narcotics in our community is second to none." 

In the second case, authorities said a community tip regarding an ongoing investigation led them to a residence in Four Seasons Estates in Effingham on Oct. 19. A search warrant was served on that date and police said items were seized at the residence, including meth, paraphernalia, scales, bags, ammunition and other contraband items. 

Following the investigation and search warrant, 28-year-old Gaige B. McWhorter and 34-year-old Bridgit M. Boyt were arrested. Both suspects are from Effingham. 

Authorities said McWhorter faces charges of delivery or possession of meth with intent to deliver and possession of ammunition by a felon. Boyt faces a charge of delivery or possession of meth with intent to deliver. 

The delivery or possession of meth with intent to deliver charge is a Class 1 felony count and could mean six to 30 years behind bars, along with a $100,000 fine. Possession of ammunition by a felon, a Class 3 felony count, could mean two to 10 years in prison. 

“This investigation all started with a tip from a community member," McFarland said. "It’s our local citizens that step forward with information that help our efforts to curb illegal narcotic activity in the community that we care so much about. Members of the Effingham Police Department were assisted by the Effingham County Sheriff's Department and the Southeastern Illinois Drug Task Force (SEIDTF). The collaborative effort from tip, to investigation, to arrest is a great example that if you see something, say something.”

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