A former South Pekin man pleaded guilty Thursday to charges that revealed him as a “key player” in supplying meth to the Pekin area.

John Pennington, 60, remained free on bond with a strong incentive to return to court for his Dec. 7 sentencing hearing. If he does, one of the two Class X charges against him will be dismissed, according to the plea agreement his prosecutor described.

For now, Pennington faces up to 60 years in prison for aggravated meth manufacturing and armed violence. Another charge of making meth in a residence with two young children present was dismissed Thursday.

“I’d say he was a key player” in Pekin-area methamphetamine production, a Pekin Police Department spokesman said after Pennington’s arrest last November. “We want the (meth-making) cooks, the kingpins, and that’s what he is.”

Pennington, now of Pekin, was charged after an investigation by a special Pekin police task force determined he had manufactured up to 400 grams of meth in his home at 313 Birkett St. 

Armed with a search warrant, officers from Pekin and the Illinois State Police raided the home to find equipment and chemicals used in meth labs. They also found nine firearms, including revolvers, rifles, shotguns and a semi-automatic handgun, court records stated.

A man who said he had made meth with Pennington in the residence also told police that Pennington used the weapons to threaten individuals and made statements about harming others with them, court records stated.

The armed violence charge stemming from the weapons would be dismissed if Pennington complies with the plea agreement, leaving him with a prison term between six and 30 years.