By Rachel Dove
WILLIAMSON - A Beckley resident and a Williamson man were recently arrested after warrants were obtained against them for a number of charges including extortion.
Christopher Allen Cline, 42, of Logan Street in Williamson, and Damien Angel Bagut, 34, of Woodlawn Avenue in Beckley, are accused of two counts of each of extortion or attempted extortion, attempts, conspiracy, obstructing an officer and receiving or transferring stolen goods. Bagut was also charged with one count of petit larceny.
According to the criminal complaints filed in Mingo County Magistrate Court by Williamson Patrolmen J.L. Marcum and J.D. Tincher, Bagut stole an IPhone 5 (valued at $699.99) from Steven Vaughn of Williamson, at the 7-11 convenience store on Harvey Street in Williamson. He then allegedly was contacted by Vaughn, as well as his parents, Goldie and Darrell Stevens, who informed Bagut that the cellphone belonged to the victim and that it needed to be returned immediately. Bagut and Cline then attempted to extort money from Vaughn in return for his phone, saying they would not give it back without receiving $100 in return, according to the complaits.
The owner refused and Cline and Bagut then allegedly attempted to extort money from the Stevens, but they also were adamant they were not paying for property that already belonged to their son. At this point, officers with the Williamson Police Department were called in to investigate the crime.
The two defendants were confronted by police, who asked them questions about the alleged theft. Cline and Bagut denied any knowledge of the crime and said they were not involved. Video surveillance from the crime scene, however, reportedly told a different story.
When the tapes were viewed, it was allegedly clear that Bagut had stolen the phone and had concealed it under his jacket as he left the store along with Cline. Cline was also allegedly seen on surveillance footage speaking to Vaughn about paying money to get the IPhone back. Officers later reportedly learned that Cline had taken the phone into Kentucky, where he sold it to Ronnie Kinser of Stone, Ky., for $75 cash.
After finding photos and contact numbers of the phone, Kinser became suspicious that the merchandise was stolen and quickly returned it to the proper owner after making contact with him. Vaughn gave Kinser a $50 reward as a thank-you for doing the right thing.
Bagut was taken into custody on April 18 and was arraigned by Magistrate Dee Sidebottom. Cline was informed there was a warrant for his arrest and turned himself in on April 21. Both defendants were released from custody after posting bail. Bagut and Cline are scheduled to return to magistrate court next week for their preliminary hearings.