By Wendy Holdren
Two members of a multi-county theft ring are in custody and additional arrests are anticipated in the near future, according to Fayette County Sheriff’s Department.
Clinton H. Hall, 37, of Mossy, is charged with one count of breaking and entering and one count of grand larceny. He also faces two counts of breaking and entering and two counts of grand larceny in Boone County.
Vernon Estep, 52, of Gallagher in Kanawha County, was charged with one count of being an accessory after the fact to breaking and entering in Fayette County.
Both were remanded to Southern Regional Jail.
Police said additional charges are anticipated against Hall and Estep and possibly other individuals involved in a string of thefts since July.
The Custard Stand in the Lochgelly area of Oak Hill was broken into July 8, and money was stolen from the safe. Many other businesses were broken into and robbed in the following months throughout Fayette County.
Based on the similar nature of the crimes, investigators believed the crimes were linked to the same suspects. After reviewing surveillance tapes and speaking with individuals who submitted tips, police began to focus on a known professional thief from the Mossy area.
Investigators with the Sheriff’s Office Detective Bureau initiated an intense surveillance operation Friday.
Several investigators focused on the suspect’s vehicle parked in the Smithers area, while others discovered that Taco Bell in Smithers had been broken into.
Upon searching the vehicle, police found $2,500 that had been stolen from the Taco Bell safe. Numerous burglary tools were also found in the suspect’s truck, including a saw, camouflage clothing, masks and gloves.
“At this time, we have been able to link Clinton Hall to at least 11 incidents of breaking and entering in Fayette County, one in Raleigh County and two in Boone County,” Sheriff Steve Kessler said.
“All of these incidents have occurred in the last four months. Investigators have estimated that more than $50,000 has been stolen from these businesses in this series of crimes, not to mention the cost to the businesses to replace their damaged safes, doors, windows and alarm systems.”
Both Hall and Estep have previously been convicted of felony crimes of theft. Kessler said the investigation indicates that Hall used nearly all of the stolen money to purchase drugs.
The series of crimes remains under investigation by the Detective Bureau of the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office. Boone and Kanawha county officers assisted with the investigation.
“The Fayette County Sheriff’s Office is grateful for the investigative assistance provided by these agencies enabling us to solve this series of crimes.”
Anyone with more information about these crimes is asked to call Fayette County Sheriff’s Office at 304-574-4305 or Crime Stoppers at 304-255-7867, or submit an anonymous tip at www.fayettesheriffwv.net.