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Campbell County

Campbell County Woman Scammed Out Of $30K Through Bitcoin Con

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Campbell County woman was swindled out of around $30,000, sending the money to her scammer through Bitcoin transfers, the Campbell County undersheriff told Cowboy State Daily on Tuesday.

Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds said a 56-year-old woman on Monday reported to police that she had been scammed out of around $30,000 after a man identified as “Stephen Weiner” contacted her in March, telling her she was being awarded a grant.

“He claimed he was with the Bush Foundation and that the victim had been approved for a grant program, which required a small investment for a much larger payout,” Reynolds said Tuesday.

The two communicated from around late March until Sunday. Reynolds said since the case was still in the early part of investigation, he was unsure of why the woman stopped communicating with Weiner.

During the two months, the victim made several transactions, converting cash into Bitcoin through an ATM at a local convenience store. The transactions are still being compiled, but the total losses are estimated to be around $30,000.

Reynolds said that criminals like to use Bitcoin because it is harder to track. Due to this, he said it could be difficult to recover all of the victim’s money.

“Whether we can do anything about this or help them out in any way, I’m not sure,” he said.

The Bush Foundation awards $40 million per year to various philanthropic organizations. The foundation actually warned in 2020 of scammers using the organization’s name to try to swindle funds from unsuspecting victims.

“There are different scams, but many promise grant money if the user pays a shipping or processing fee, sends money or a gift card, or shares personal information,” the foundation said. “In some cases, scammers create fake accounts to pose as a staff member, even using names and photos of our staff. They may also hack into accounts of a friend or relative to send messages claiming they received grant money from the Bush Foundation.”

This is not the first social media-related scam that has occurred in Campbell County in recent months. In March, a woman lost $800 in a puppy scam through Facebook when a person posing as someone selling a puppy requested funds for an animal that did not exist. The buyer sent the money, believing the animal to be real.

That same month, a Gillette man reported being scammed out of $15,000 by a woman he had never met face-to-face.

Reynolds reiterated that if a message sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

“With this case, they told her she’d been approved for a grant program, but she needed to send money, which is suspicious in and of itself,” he said.

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Gillette Cops Bust Speeding Californian With 300 Pounds Of Weed Worth $1.2 Million

in News/Crime

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A California man is in custody at the Campbell County jail after almost 300 pounds of marijuana was found last week in the car he was driving.

Leng See Chang, 33, of Sacramento, was arrested Thursday morning on Wyoming Highway 50 outside of Gillette and faces numerous charges, including possession with intent to deliver. He remained in custody as of Monday, Campbell County Sheriff’s Capt. Eric Seeman told Cowboy State Daily.

“The stop was pretty quick,” Seeman said. “He was going around nine miles (per hour) above the speed limit and the officer just noticed there was something in the back of the vehicle.”

Cheng was driving a 2008 Toyota RAV4 and concealed the drugs in the backseat and the rear portion of the vehicle, according to arrest reports. The drugs were concealed under a sleeping bag, but Seeman said the officer could see Cheng was hauling something that was loading the car down.

Cheng quickly admitted to having the drugs in the vehicle, Seeman said. The street value of the drugs is estimated to be around $1.2 million.

“I’d personally rather have the $1.2 million than the drugs, but that’s just me,” he said.

Cheng did say where he was heading, but Seeman said that information was not being released. He was not sure where Cheng had been driving from when he was arrested outside of Gillette.

The captain added that this was one of the larger drug busts the sheriff’s department has seen in recent years. While the department might see people get arrested for marijuana possession, they usually do not have hundreds of pounds with them.

“At the Campbell County Sheriff’s Office, we have a zero tolerance policy, so it doesn’t matter what the amount of drugs could be in the car, if you’re caught with any controlled substance, you will be arrested and go to jail,” Seeman said.

Louey Williams, a special agent with the Wyoming Division of Criminal Investigation special agent, told Cowboy State Daily that drug trafficking on Wyoming’s highwways is nothing new.

However, the increase of K-9 partners used by local law enforcement agencies has been a major help in cutting down on drugs being hauled through Wyoming, he said.

“If you have guys that are working the interstate and have a K-9, that increases the chance of them catching the load,” he said.

Williams knew there had been larger busts of drugs and marijuana during Wyoming traffic stops in recent years, but could not recall the numbers or when.

“This is a pretty large load, but there have definitely been bigger,” Williams said.

In February, the Pine Bluffs police department conducted a traffic stop for someone speeding and discovered nearly 350 pounds of marijuana inside of the vehicle, a historic bust for the department.

In April 2021, a traffic stop near Evanston led to the discovery of 300 pounds of marijuana.

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Wright Woman Disappears, Found Two Days Later Stuck In Mud

in News

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A Wright woman who had been missing for two days was found Wednesday afternoon stuck in mud in a rural area ditch.

According to Cambell County Undersheriff Quentin Reynolds, the 54-year-old woman was found Wednesday lying on her side at the bottom of a large ditch near Highway 59 in rural Campbell County.

She was found by a man who was walking his dogs in the area, Reynolds told Cowboy State Daily.

“The woman was conscious, but unable to get up and said she had been in that location since the previous night,” Reynolds told.

She was mistaken, Reynolds said, and had actually been in the ditch for two nights.

The woman would not have been visible to anyone from the road, he said, and was unable to signal for help. She was lying on her left side and was unable to break free from the mud in the ditch.

“She was obviously extremely cold,” Reynolds said.

The woman had been reported missing two days prior, on Monday, by her sister, who is also her caregiver. She had been missing for about two hours before her sister called the authorities.

Once emergency personnel arrived Wednesday afternoon, they were able to extricate the woman from the mud and transport her to the local hospital.

Reynolds’ brother, Frank Reynolds, was involved in a similar situation last year, when he was forced to spend two nights surviving under an overturned four-wheeler. He survived on beer and water for around 40 hours.

“That second night you start betting against your family members, no matter how tough they are — stuck out there not knowing where they’re at,” he said, recalling the ordeal with his brother. “But thankfully it turned out alright.”

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Lightning Ignites Grass Fire North of Gillette, Burns 275 Acres

in News/wildfire

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By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily

A 273-acre grass fire in a small town north of Gillette over the weekend was caused by lightning, officials said Sunday.

On Saturday morning, Campbell County firefighters responded to a home in Weston for a timber fire. The fire involved about 3.7 square miles of private land.

Lightning from a passing storm the previous night caused the fire, which was fully contained as of Sunday night. Nearly 60 firefighters helped battle the fire, including firefighters from Campbell County, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and Tatanka Hotshots, with assistance provided by the Wyoming State Forestry Division’s helicopter.

Landowners and volunteers were also on site all day Saturday to assist with firefighting efforts.

Firefighters remained on the scene Monday to ensure the fire was under control.

In late April, Wyoming State Forestry Division’s fire management officer told Cowboy State Daily that the state’s fire outlook for the 2021 season wasn’t good.

However, Anthony Schultz did offer the caveat that while the outlook seemed bad to start the spring and summer season, there was a possibility nature could change its course and provide a rainy summer.

“Around 2017 or 2018, we were looking to have a pretty active fire season, but we ended up getting a lot of rain into June and July, so the fire season was muted,” he said. “It wasn’t something heavily predicted, so we weren’t really expecting it.”

The fire season in Wyoming usually begins around June, but is at its most dangerous in July and August, Schultz said, with fire restrictions across the state usually being fully lifted by the fall.

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Miners face uncertainty of changing coal markets

in Energy/News

Miners left without jobs with the closure of two of Campbell County’s biggest coal mines are facing a changing reality in the nature of the coal industry, Gillette residents agree.

Residents said although the coal industry has traditionally been a stable source of income and employment, the dropping demand for coal has changed that.

“The coal jobs have historically been the stable jobs,” said Alison Gee, a Gillette attorney. “Now we’re shifting to an environment where we have to look to oil and gas to try and provide some of the stability for our families. And as you know, the oil and gas markets just aren’t that way. They’re very volatile because of the world economy.”

About 600 miners lost their jobs several weeks ago when Blackjewel closed the Belle Ayre and Eagle Butte mines. Efforts are being made to secure funding to return the mines to operation.

If those efforts fail, many of those who lost their jobs will probably leave the community, predicted Ken Anthony, a retired miner.

“You’ve got two to three kids at home and you’ve got a big old house payment and car payment and all of a sudden that stops,” he said. “It’s pretty scary. When they lose their jobs, it really makes a big effect on the whole county. If they can get the money and re-open (the mines), it will be fine. If they can’t, more than likely, most of (the miners) will leave.”

Gee noted that while some companies are offering jobs to Blackjewel’s former miners, most do not have the resources to offer the same level of salaries or benefits.

Tom Lubnau, a former speaker for Wyoming’s House of Representatives, said the mine closures show the state needs to work to offset the diminishing demand for coal.

“We have to, in some way, take control of our own destiny,” he said. “If we can boost the market in a certain way, develop the technologies that we need to use to market our resources, then we should do that.”

In the meantime, Gillette’s residents are doing what they can to ease the burden on the unemployed miners, said Trey McConnell, manager at the Railyard Restaurant.

“The people here, in bad times they bond together, they help one another out,” he said. “It’s one of these areas where you can kind of rely on your brothers and sisters. It’s just a very tight-knit community.”

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