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FOUR MEN ARRESTED FOLLOWING BIZARRE SERIES OF CRIMES

By MARGE WOODFIN

Four Curry County men have been arrested in connection with a series of interwoven crimes that include counterfeit bills, a stolen van, arson and burglary, authorities said Friday.

Curry County Sheriffs Detective Dave Gardner said the events started when several businesses in Port Orford and Gold Beach reported receiving several $5 counterfeit bills.

They may have passed some in Brookings, Gardner said, but we havent found them yet.

Next, Joseph Taylor Russell, 23, Jason Vervalen, 25, and Ronnie Smith, 20, all of Gold Beach, allegedly took a van from the parking lot of the Church of Christ on 11th Street in Gold Beach during the Sunday evening services.

I couldnt believe it. Right off the church parking lot, said Jerry Dean, pastor of the church. In fact one of the members who came in late said he invited (a suspect) in, but he said, No thanks, Im just out walking.

Dean said it was only an hour later that they saw smoke and fire engines driving by.

According to Gardner, the three suspects allegedly drove the van to the Thimbleberry Road home of Dr. Michael OGara, which they burglarized.

Gardner said the suspects were apparently frightened off and tried to leave in a hurry, running the van into a ditch from which they were unable to get out of.

So, they allegedly torched the van, presumably to hide finger prints, Gardner said. They then fled on foot, he said.

Oregon State Police Trooper Joe DelGreco apprehended Vervalen as he emerged onto Highway 101 at 3:09 a.m. Monday morning.

In a separate investigation, Gold Beach Police Officer Dusty Watson determined that Smith and Russell were likely suspects in the passing of the phony $5 bills.

On Wednesday, Gardner contacted Russell, who had been apprehended earlier by the Gold Beach Police Department.

Gardener took him to the site of the burglary to look for hidden stolen property.

Meanwhile, Smith and Clint Hagood, 21, of Gold Beach, fled on foot when they were discovered at the Rogue Autel Motel.

Hagood was found hiding under the grandstand at the Curry County Fairgrounds and was arrested on probation violation charges.

He also gave up stolen property given to him by Smith, Gardner said.

On Thursday, Gold Beach Police Chief Bob Rector and Officer Marvin Parker arrested Smith, who admitted he was involved in the robbery and the arson of the van, Gardner said.

Russell, Vervalen and Smith have all been arraigned on charges, including criminal mischief for allegedly torching the van and one count each of burglary.

Vervalen has also been charged with forgery in connection with the $5 counterfeit bills.

Russell has been charged with two counts of burglary and two counts of theft in connection with unassociated crimes he allegedly committed in Nesika Beach in early July.

I expect that all three will be charged with unauthorized use of a motor vehicle as soon as we receive a report, District Attorney Charlie Steak said, referring to the theft of the van.

The van is being removed to the county shop to try to inventory the remnants of stolen merchandise, Steak said.

All three suspects remain in the Curry County Jail awaiting their next appearance in court, and all have requested court-appointed attorneys.

Smith is scheduled to appear next on Sept. 5, Russell on Sept. 6 and Vervalen on Sept. 10.

Hagood was released following his arrest on the probation violation charges, but Gardner said he believes other charges will be filed against him.

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