Arrests made in multi-county theft ring
FAYETTEVILLE, W.Va. -- Fayette County investigators have arrested two men accused of being a serial thief and his accomplice in a multi-county theft ring.
Clinton Hall, 37, of Mossy and Vernon Estep, 52, of Gallagher were arrested Friday in Fayette County after another theft, according to a press statement issued by the Fayette Sheriff's Office.
The investigation began in July when the Custard Stand in the Lochgelly area of Oak Hill was broken into and the safe robbed. Deputies found several other businesses around the county also had been the victim of breaking-and-entering and their safes had been looted.
Investigators concluded the incidents were related based on the similar nature of the crimes. Based on surveillance videos, witness statements and following up on several leads and tips, investigators began to focus on a "known professional thief," later identified as Hall, as a possible suspect, according to the release.
Detectives began an intense surveillance operation on Hall to document his movements and his possible involvement in criminal behavior.
Their efforts produced results Friday night when Hall's vehicle was spotted parked in Smithers. Detectives began checking with businesses in the area and found the Taco Bell restaurant had been broken into.
Deputies stopped Hall's vehicle near the bridge to Montgomery and conducted a search, finding $2,500 that had been stolen from the restaurant and burglary tools, including a saw, camouflage clothing, masks and gloves, the release said.
Hall was charged with one count of breaking and entering and one count of grand larceny in Fayette County. He also faces two counts of breaking and entering and grand larceny in Boone County.
Estep, who was also in the vehicle, was charged with one count of accessory after the fact to breaking and entering.
Both men were taken to Southern Regional Jail. Hall remained in jail on $100,000 bond. Estep has since been released.
Deputies expect more charges to be filed against Hall and Estep as well as others who may be involved.
"At this time we have been able to link Clinton Hall to at least 11 incidents of breaking and entering in Fayette County, 1 in Raleigh County and 2 in Boone County," Sheriff Steve Kessler said in the release.
"All of these incidents have occurred in the last four months. Investigators have estimated that more than $50,000.00 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 men were previously convicted of felony theft charges, Kessler said. He said information gathered in the investigation indicates the money stolen in these incidents was used by Hall to buy drugs.
Boone and Kanawha sheriffs deputies assisted Fayette deputies on the investigation.
Anyone with information on this series of crimes can contact the Fayette Detective Bureau at 304-574-4305 or Crime Stoppers at 304-255-7867.
Contact writer Ashley B. Craig at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-4850.