Dubuque pawn shop owner pleads guilty to crimes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Dubuque pawn shop owner pleads guilty to crimes

Vandermillen will serve a sentence of up to 25 years Vandermillen will serve a sentence of up to 25 years

In a move that took prosecutors by surprise, Dubuque pawn shop owner Mike Vandermillen took a plea deal and pleaded guilty Tuesday to multiple crimes.

Dubuque police arrested Vandermillen in May. Prosecutors charged him with two counts of delivery of oxycodone, one count of illegal possession of a firearm by a felon, two counts of assault and one count of ongoing criminal activity. The latter charge compiled acts allegedly committed between March of 2007 and May of 2012, including coordinating thefts, burglaries, prostitution and more.

Dubuque County prosecutors told Vandermillen they'd drop the assaults and firearm charges if Vandermillen would plead guilty to the other three charges. Each of the two drug counts, Class C felonies, carries a maximum sentence of 10 years, while the ongoing criminal activities charge, a Class B felony, comes with a maximum 25-year penalty. As part of the deal, prosecutors said Vandermillen would also have to agree to serving all three of the maximum sentences - but concurrently, so a total of up to 25 years in prison.

Vandermillen and his attorney Phil Jensen indicated Monday Vandermillen would accept the plea deal. It was a move that was a pleasant surprise for prosecutor Chris Corken. Vandermillen's trial, which would have involved a substantial number of witnesses, was set to begin Monday.

Corken said the case built against Vandermillen, and his subsequent arrest, was one of the biggest-ever coordinated efforts between Dubuque-area law enforcement agencies.

On Tuesday, Judge Monica Ackley accepted both attorneys' agreed-upon recommendation for a maximum 25-year sentence. Vandermillen is required to serve at least three years and four months, or one-third, of the concurrent drugs charges. There is no minimum requirement for the ongoing criminal activity sentence.

Jensen declined to comment on the outcome.

Corken said Vandermillen's prosecution was a significant one for Dubuque.

"It became part of the culture that people just seemed to know that you could take stolen stuff to Mike's, you could get drugs at Mike's, you could sell food stamp cards at Mike's, and that's destructive, when people just assume that we're looking the other way," Corken said.

Vandermillen, 39, said he readily admits his guilt in the majority of the crimes detailed in the ongoing criminal activity charge. He disputed several contentions, but overall said there was enough truth to the charges that a jury would be able to find him honestly guilty.

Ackley said Vandermillen saved and community and the state time and money by sparing everybody a trial.

The proceedings Tuesday took place at the Delaware County Courthouse in Manchester simply because that's where Ackley is serving this week.

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