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Gillette Teens Charged With Felonies For Stolen Pickup, Causing $40k In Damage

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

Two juvenile males now face felony charges after a late-night joy ride in a stolen pickup resulted in over $40,000 in damage to public and private property, authorities say.

Both were arrested at the Energy Capital Sports Complex (ECSC) last night around midnight, according to Gillette Police Lt. Kelly Alger, who added that the males had been sought after for a string of property damages to Fox Park earlier that same night.

Officers had been dispatched to Forge Court at 11:37 p.m. after a 26-year-old female reported seeing a white 2006 Chevrolet run into a portable toilet at Fox Park and drive through a fence in her backyard, where it proceeded to drive in circles, per Alger.

The portable toilet was pushed off its base and back approximately 25 yards into a field. The vehicle had also crashed into the Fox Park sign at the entrance to the playground.

At the park, officers recovered several alcohol bottles, broken glass, and a backpack, Alger said.

Officers were dispatched again 30 minutes later to the ECSC where witnesses reported seeing the pickup crash into a fence around the newly constructed splash pad area until the vehicle was no longer operational. The suspects then attempted to flee on foot.

When officers arrived, bystanders had taken a 14-year-old male suspect into custody, Alger said, adding that officers chased down and arrested a 16-year-old male suspect moments later.

The 16-year-old male fought with officers and was ultimately transported to the Campbell County Detention Center (CCDC). A third suspect managed to get away and has not yet been identified, per Alger.

The 14-year-old male told officers that his uncle had let him borrow the pickup but, when questioned further, became verbally combative.

He began to threaten law enforcement, ultimately claiming that he was going to kill them, Alger said, who further stated that the pickup was found to be stolen and the 14-year-old male was also transported to the CCDC.

In total, the damage to the pickup, the ECSC, and Fox Park is in excess of $40,000. The two juvenile males have been charged with felony conspiracy to destroy property and theft.

The 14-year-old male was also charged with being under the influence of drugs, according to arrest records provided by the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office.

Law enforcement will be seeking to identify and apprehend the third suspect in the coming days.

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Fort Washakie Man Sentenced To 14 Years In Prison For Sexually Abusing Minors

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Fort Washakie man has been sentenced to more than 14 years in prison this week for sexually abusing minors on the Wind River Indian Reservation for 14 years.

Avery Fitzgerald Brown, 27, was sentenced to 14.5 years in prison, followed by 10 years of supervised released this week in U.S. District Court.

In late April, Brown pleaded guilty to charges of aggravated sexual abuse and abusive sexual contact of a minor.

“The FBI and our local, state, tribal and federal partners work tirelessly to investigate and bring to justice individuals engaged in the exploitation and sexual abuse of minors. With this sentence, a dangerous child predator has been removed from the community with a clear message that sexual abuse of our vulnerable youth will not be tolerated,” said Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge Michael Schneider. “We are grateful to the dedication of our partners at the Wind River Police Department and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for their efforts in this case and our shared commitment to protecting children.”

According to court records, the abuse occurred on the Wind River Indian Reservation from March 2006 to October 2020, when one of the victims disclosed in a letter to a physician with the Indian Health Service that she had been sexually assaulted by Brown multiple times.

“This case demonstrates the incredible work performed by dedicated federal agents and community members who stood up for the victims and worked tirelessly to bring this abhorrent individual to justice,” said Acting U.S. Attorney Bob Murray. “It takes courage for any victim – especially child victims – to come forward and disclose sexual abuse.  We should all be thankful that a young girl bravely spoke up and helped stop this defendant from hurting any other children.”

The investigation was conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Special Agent Adrianne N. Jahnke. Assistant United States Kerry J. Jacobson prosecuted the case.

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Gillette Man Guilty Of Attacking Another Man With Crowbar in Coffee Shop

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By Ryan Lewallen, County 17

A Gillette man accused of attacking another man with a crowbar in 2020 was found guilty by a Wyoming jury after half an hour of deliberation, the Campbell County Attorney’s Office announced Friday.

Brennan Baker, 29, was found guilty of aggravated assault and battery with the habitual criminal enhancement on July 8 following a two-day jury trial relating to an October 2020 incident where he attacked a man at a local coffee shop with a crowbar.

Court documents state that Baker believed the other male had “hooked up with his old lady” at some point previously and was upset when he confronted the male at Hole in the Wall Coffee on South Douglas Highway in Gillette.

Video surveillance footage showed Baker taking a baseball bat-style grip on the crowbar and taking multiple double-arm swings at the male’s head, torso, and hips in the parking lot, per the affidavit, which adds the male put his arms up in an attempt to ward off the onslaught.

At one point, the male was able to grab the crowbar from Baker’s grip and the two exchanged blows with their fists for several moments. Baker was ultimately able to regain possession of the crowbar and swung periodically at the male any time he got near his vehicle in an attempt to leave.

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Cheyenne Airman Saves Kidnapped Child, Helps Capture Fugitive

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Cheyenne airman has been hailed for her role in the apprehension of a fugitive and the return of a kidnapped child to his mother.

Suzanne Pedro, an installation entry controller at F.E. Warren Air Force Base, was recognized this week for her actions in late June.

According to records of the event, a man drove up to the Air Force base gate and handed Pedro, assigned to defend the gate, an unusual form of identification. The man and a boy in the vehicle refused to make eye contact with the airman, which made her suspect something was amiss.

“I had a feeling something wasn’t right,” said Pedro. “Neither the man or the child looked at me while I scanned the ID. When it flashed red for warrants, my heart began to race.”

Pedro quietly alerted her supervisors and fellow airmen on duty about the situation. She directed the vehicle out of the line of traffic at the gate to keep the man from fleeing.

Airman Frank Shaw relayed information to the base defense operations center, which verified warrants had been issued for the arrest of the man in the car and contacted local law enforcement to inform officers of the situation.

“We were told of a weapon in the car, so my heart was racing, but I wasn’t nervous,” said Pedro. “My main concern was keeping the child distracted and keeping him comfortable and happy.”

Although the investigation is ongoing, the airmen have been told the child had been missing from his biological mother since December.

Pedro and Shaw were recognized by multiple levels of leadership for their actions.

“Airman Pedro exemplifies what it means to be a Defender,” said Maj. Keil Luber, commander of the 90th Security Forces Squadron, which runs the air base. “While not yet qualified on her position, she followed her instincts and training, directly contributing to the capture of a wanted criminal and the recovery of a missing child.”

Pedro expressed excitement about her coming years in the military.

“I’ve wanted to be a police officer as long as I can remember,” said Pedro. “To have only been in the Air Force for 10 months and get this experience that most haven’t gotten in their whole careers – it’s been amazing. I am thankful for everyone on my flight who has helped teach me, and I’m also thankful to my parents for supporting me in my dreams.”

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Former Wyoming Catholic College Official Accused Of Running $15 Million Scam

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A former chief financial officer for Wyoming Catholic College is accused in a federal lawsuit of running an elaborate scheme to defraud a New York asset management firm of $15 million.

Paul McCown is accused in a lawsuit filed in U.S. District court of falsifying financial documents and even posing as a bank official to convince Ria R Squared to loan him $15 million.

The lawsuit filed in late June said that within “hours or minutes” of McCown receiving the loan, he transferred most of the loan proceeds to other people — including relatives, associates and Wyoming Catholic College itself, which received an anonymous $10 million contribution through McCown’s actions.

“This is the story of a complex, calculated, methodical and fraudulent scheme, orchestrated by an individual holding a trusted and respected position with the Wyoming Catholic College, to defraud R Squared out of the sum of $15 million,” the lawsuit said.

WCC, in a statement Wednesday, said it was in the process of returning the money.

Wyoming Catholic College was not named as a defendant in the lawsuit and no claim was made that the college was involved in the scheme. 

In the statement, WCC said McCown was placed on indefinite administrative leave on June 5 because of personal financial irregularities and resigned on June 25.

“Over the past month, to experience such a profound breach of trust by a leader of our institution, has been both embarrassing and painful for Wyoming Catholic College,” the college said.

It added there was no evidence of financial irregularities at the college.

According to the lawsuit, McCown was introduced to David Kang, president and chief executive officer of R Squared, by WCC’s executive vice president, Jonathan Tonkowich.

McCown told Kang he was looking to obtain advisory services related to the college’s endowment fund.

In March of this year, McCown advised Kang he was searching for investment advisory services on his own behalf for his “substantial personal wealth.”

The lawsuit said McCown provided Kang with bank statements from Wyoming Community Bank that revealed small balances in January and February that grew in March to $750.3 million as the result of a large deposit.

He also offered US Bank statements “which appeared to confirm the large transfer …” 

McCown told R Squared to address all of its questions to a Kendall Hayford, who he identified as his bank officer at Wyoming Community Bank. An R Squared representative had a telephone conversation with a man identified as Kendall Hayford using a telephone number supplied by McCown.

McCown in May texted Kang that he needed a short-term loan for $10 million — an amount later increased to $15 million. He referred R Squared to Hayford for the necessary banking information.

The loan was made on May 11. 

Meanwhile, McCown continued to move forward with setting up an investment advisory account with the $761 million reportedly in his account. A person identifying himself as Hayford said the money had been released and a wire transfer to R Squared had been initiated on May 21.

“However, the funds did not arrive that day, or on the following Monday … (or ever),” the lawsuit said.

When looking into the situation, R Squared reached out to Wyoming Community Bank’s president and “McCown’s fraudulent activities began to become known.”

When contacted about the loan, McCown denied borrowing the money or signing any loan documents.

Further investigation revealed the bank statements provided to R Squared were forgeries and that McCown never had hundreds of millions of dollars in Wyoming Community Bank.

While Kendall Hayford is an employee of Wyoming Community Bank, the number and email given R Squared by McCown were both false and Hayford’s signature on documents was forged.

Within hours of receiving the money, the lawsuit said, McCown transferred most of it to relatives, including his father and brother- and sister-in-law, to himself and to the Wyoming Catholic College colleague who introduced him to Kang. 

He also obtained a cashier’s check payable to the state for $841,863.

“The falsity, and the great lengths Mr. McCown took to exact his plan, became known only days after funding the loan,” the lawsuit said. “Regrettably, the vast majority of the funds have now been disseminated to various entities and individuals affiliated with Mr. McCown, including his family members and his employer.”

The lawsuit said R Squared could not account for about $1 million of the loan.

The lawsuit asks the court to issue an injunction to prevent the further distribution of the money.

“Given the elusive and creative nature of Mr. McCown to date, and his blatant and brazen disregard for the consequences of his misconduct, it is imperative that Mr. McCown … be restrained from (his) ongoing fraudulent conduct, the continued dissipation of assets, including the funds fraudulently obtained, and the hindrance of justice,” it said.

A hearing on the company’s request has been scheduled for July 16.

The lawsuit accuses McCown of a number of charges, including fraud and breach of contract, and asks that the court force McCown to repay the loan plus interest, along with punitive damages to be determined in the course of the lawsuit.

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Man Gets Drunk, Leads Yellowstone Park Rangers On 100mph+ Chase

in Yellowstone/News/Crime
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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man who led Yellowstone National Park rangers this week on a chase with speeds of more than 100 mph could face multiple years in prison or hefty fines.

Roderick B. Tillman Jr. has been charged with nine misdemeanor counts, including driving under the influence, fleeing a police officer and unlawful possession of a controlled substance.

Tillman made an appearance in U.S. District Court on Tuesday, where he was advised of the charges against him.

According to court documents, officers were alerted to a collision between two vehicles near Yellowstone’s southern entry gate Monday morning. The reporting party said one of the drivers, later identified as Tillman, was belligerent and was suspected to be intoxicated.

The reporting woman also said Tillman was throwing “stuff” at her husband. Tillman reportedly left the scene in a red vehicle, traveling toward Grant Village inside the park.

An officer located Tillman’s vehicle and attempted to initiate a traffic stop, but Tillman did not pull over. At one point, Tillman had to stop the vehicle due to traffic and officers commanded him to leave his car, even using a gun convince him to do so.

He refused and fled the scene again.

Tillman began to drive more than 100 mph in a 45 mph speed zone in the park. He frequently drove in the opposing lane of traffic with vehicles coming toward him — some even had to swerve off the road to avoid hitting him — and made erratic passing maneuvers with no use of turn signals, said an affidavit filed in the case.

He also would suddenly accelerate or brake, creating a dangerous and unpredictable environment.

After turning his vehicle around at one point to avoid apprehension, Tillman turned down the Mesa Pit Road, a gravel road with a “do not enter” sign posted near it. He lost control of his car and slid down a steep sandy hill.

A ranger told Tillman to exit his vehicle, but he didn’t comply. His speech was slurred and his responses were incoherent as he made references to items including the ranger’s ancestors, rape and Christopher Columbus and making comments such as “You did this to me” and “I’m drunk.”

In his vehicle, officers found two empty alcohol containers and a pill bottle.

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YouTube “Influencers” Arrested In Rawlins After Breaking Into Hotel, Harassing Wildlife

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

Five men were arrested over the weekend in Rawlins after breaking into an abandoned hotel and recording footage while “on tour” for their YouTube channel.

Dmitri Sergei Martyanov, 31, of Tempe, Arizona is charged with felony theft of a firearm and Jorge Eduardo Mendoza Aguinaga, 22, of California, is charged with possession of a controlled substance (three ounces of marijuana), according to Cali O’Hare of Bigfoot99, who originally reported on the incident.

Both men are currently out on bond, while their companions were not charged.

The five men had more than a half dozen firearms when they broke into the hotel. They documented their escapades on Snapchat, referring to it as “the projects” and “a serial killer’s house.”

The men also filmed themselves breaking windows inside the hotel, which was condemned almost a decade ago.

They were also seen harassing a female mule deer, throwing bread rolls at the animal.

The group of men run a YouTube channel that is labeled as a “shocking reality/comedy show” that “aims to expose the problem” of drug addiction in the United States. They generally film drug addicted and homeless people.

The duo have racked up more than 7 million views on their channel, but they haven’t posted a video since April.

Martyanov and Aguinaga were supposed to appear in circuit court for preliminary hearings this week, but their court appearances will be rescheduled, according to O’Hare.

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Man Shot By Green River Police After Firing At Officers

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A man was shot late Tuesday by Green River police after shooting at police officers and threatening other people with a gun, according to the Green River Police Department.

Around 11 p.m. on Tuesday, a Green River police officer received a report of a person who had threatened other people with a gun near a local park.

As the officer was receiving the information, a vehicle matching the description given by the caller passed by the officer’s location.

Officers conducted a traffic stop on the vehicle and the driver initially refused to exit the vehicle.

Then, the driver began to fire a weapon at officers, who returned fire. The subject was wounded at some point during the altercation and was transported by ambulance to Sweetwater County Memorial Hospital.

He was later taken to an out-of-state hospital for further treatment.

The investigation of the incident has been turned over to the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation, which is standard practice for any officer-involved shooting in the state.

No other details on the shooting were immediately available, since the investigation just commenced.

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14-Year-Old Cheyenne Male Shot And Killed In Apparent Homicide

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A 14-year-old Cheyenne boy was killed early Monday morning in an apparent homicide, according to the Cheyenne Police Department.

Around 1 a.m. Monday, Cheyenne police officers were dispatched to a residence on a report of a gunshot heard inside the home. Upon arrival, they found the teenage victim.

The boy was transported to the Cheyenne Regional Medical Center by ambulance, where he was then pronounced dead.

The case is under investigation by Cheyenne police and no further information, including the victim’s name, has been released.

However, a GoFundMe page that was launched by an apparent friend of the victim’s family identified the boy as Daniel Barlow. The page also said he was shot in the chest.

“We are asking for anyone that feels lead by the Lord to please donate to funeral costs,” the GoFundMe’s organizer, Ashlea Bradford, wrote. “Nothing can bring my sweet cousin back but hopefully this will help the financial burden on my uncle. Whatever you can help with would be greatly appreciated by our family. Thank you.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to contact the Cheyenne Police Detective Bureau at 307-637-6521. Additionally, information can be provided anonymously at 307-638-TIPS or at silentwitnesslaramiecounty.com.

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Raccoon-Hat-Wearing Maine Man Banned From Yellowstone For Trespassing Onto Old Faithful

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Maine man who last year approached Old Faithful Geyser while wearing a raccoon skin hat and waving an American flag has been banned from Yellowstone National Park as part of his sentence on a guilty plea to charges stemming from the incident.

Aaron E. Merritt, 38, pleaded guilty to trespassing on the Old Faithful Thermal area in the park last summer. He was arraigned and sentenced on Thursday to 15 days in jail, with credit for four days served. He was also fined $230 in court costs and a $10 special assessment fee.

Merritt was also banned from the park, although it wasn’t clear if it was a lifetime ban. He was also sentenced to 15 days imprisonment with credit for four days served.

On July 7, 2020, while wearing a raccoon skin hat and waving an American flag, Merritt ran out onto the thermal area and up to the geyser at Old Faithful more than once. The thermal area surrounding the geyser is off-limits to visitors.

Merritt then failed to appear for his court hearing on July 23, 2020, and a warrant was issued for his arrest.

He was arrested on June 5 in Maine and made his appearance at the Yellowstone Justice Center.

“Yellowstone National Park has rules and regulations in place to protect park resources and help keep visitors safe,” said Acting United States Attorney Bob Murray. “This case ended with federal charges and time in prison, but it could have been much worse. If Mr. Merrick had fallen through the thermal feature, he would have most likely lost his life.” 

Merritt is the second person to be banned from the park this week, joining an Indiana man who fought park rangers and security guards earlier this month while intoxicated. That man was banned from the park for five years.

According to a previous Cowboy State Daily story, Merritt is not the only person to face park justice recently. Jake Adams, a comedian who thought he could increase his social media following by hitting a golf ball in all 50 states, is now under investigation for hitting one near Yellowstone’s Grand Prismatic Spring.

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