On the morning of his scheduled jury trial, a suburban man pleaded guilty — again — to narcotics and weapons charges alleging the sale of two dozen guns from the back of his popular food truck more than seven years ago.
Terry Ferguson, 58, of Willowbrook, entered his plea to one count each of cocaine distribution and possession of firearms by a felon during a hearing at the Dirksen U.S. Courthouse, where a pool of prospective jurors had come in to fill out questionnaires for his anticipated trial.
Ferguson faces a mandatory minimum of five years in prison, though prosecutors have said federal sentencing guidelines call for more than 10 years behind bars.
U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly set sentencing for May 15.
Ferguson’s plea agreement included allegations that he brokered the sale of 23 firearms from his food truck Chicago’s Finest Deli on Wheels, in November 2015, a transaction captured on video by an undercover agent for the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
Ferguson did not admit being directly involved in the sale. But during the deal, Ferguson could be seen arriving in his pickup truck outside a Chicago residence and giving the key to the deli truck to an associate, who later handed Ferguson a bag of cash from the undercover agent who was posing as the buyer, court records show.
The cache of guns, which included 10 rifles, four shotguns and an array of pistols, had allegedly been stolen by one of Ferguson’s associates from a home in the Canaryville neighborhood on Chicago’s Southwest Side near where Ferguson’s mother lived, according to court records.
Records show Ferguson started the food truck venture with his son, Timothy Ferguson, in 2014, catering mostly to the downtown lunch crowd and featuring Chicago-style deli sandwiches piled high with cuts of salami, roast beef, turkey and cheese.
Two others charged in the scheme, Jesus Dominguez and William Walsh, previously pleaded guilty. Walsh was sentenced to time served in 2021, while Dominguez is still awaiting sentencing, court records show.
In addition to the food truck transaction, Ferguson admitted in the plea agreement to trafficking cocaine over a three-year period beginning in 2016 and also fencing an array of stolen goods from his warehouse in Hickory Hills, including snap-on tools, deck furniture, lawn mowers and pallets of dog food.
The hearing Tuesday marked the second time Ferguson has pleaded guilty in the now 5-year-old case. In March 2021, he pleaded guilty to many of the same allegations, only to withdraw it after he was charged with other offenses in Will County that his attorney, Beau Brindley, alleged was improper because it stemmed from the same overall investigation.
Ferguson’s case was then set for trial in September, but on the day it was supposed to begin, Brindley tried to get an emergency continuance saying he has dangerously high blood pressure after the high-profile child pornography trial of R&B singer R. Kelly and two associates.
Kennelly refused to let Brindley withdraw, but reluctantly agreed to a continuance after it was revealed that Ferguson needed surgery for an abdominal issue.
Brindley, meanwhile, has said he intends to present evidence of agent misconduct and entrapment at Ferguson’s sentencing that he says will support a request for time served.
“Terry Ferguson was not selling guns or cocaine until repeatedly pressed for them by (the undercover agent),” Brindley wrote in a statement to the Tribune after the first guilty plea in 2021. “This crime was created by the ATF, not Terry Ferguson.”
Ferguson has also pleaded guilty in a separate case alleging he and his son along with another associate tried to intimidate a witness against him after the drug and gun charges were unveiled in 2018. Prosecutors said that the day Ferguson was released on bond, he visited the victim, a former business partner, at his suburban warehouse and urged him to ignore a grand jury subpoena.
“Stop talking to those guys — don’t talk to no one,” Ferguson told the man, according to court records.
Ferguson faces up to an additional year in prison when he’s sentenced in that case.