MARTINSBURG — Remarking on their dedication to service and the intensive work ethic required to achieve the things they had, U.S. Attorney Bill Powell honored eight law-enforcement representatives for their “outstanding work” in the greater Martinsburg area.
In a private ceremony held at the Berkeley County Courthouse, Powell recognized a number of police and federal agents, as well as task force teams in their entirety, for their work on highly classified cases and, in some situation, matters of national security, something he said he is glad to do to bring recognition to these much deserving officers and agents.
“Every year, we give out United States Attorney’s Awards for particularly exemplary service of the investigations that we are conducting, and sometimes they are there for community efforts,” Powell said. “We get nominations every year and a description of what was done, and I think it’s important for these folks to be recognized, because, without fail and in almost every instance, they’re people that always shy away from the limelight, they don’t want to be recognized and they just do their job, and we think it’s important to call them out sometimes and recognize them and make sure everybody understands the kind of work they do.”
Agents, teams and officers honored included: Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy Colleen Thompson, FBI Special Agent Ellen Duffy, ATF Special Agent Seth Cox, the Eastern Panhandle Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, the Potomac Highlands Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force, West Virginia State Police Sergeant Jeff Chumley, FBI Special Agent Peter Olinits and FBI Special Agent Lauren Koscho.
“It is my great honor to recognize those in law enforcement who go above and beyond to protect our children, our community and our national security. Notwithstanding the turbulent times, important work was being done. Those honored today never seek recognition, but it is important to let the public know about the accomplishments of our law-enforcement members. I thank each and every one of them for their continued service,” Powell said.
Powell said a number of cases completed by the recipients were cases of significance or a case that was particularly impactful or difficult. According to a release shared by Powell’s office, each of the honorees participated in cases under these circumstances.
Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy Colleen Thompson was honored for her work in ensuring Paul Hamilton paid for his crimes against a juvenile, leading to Hamilton pleading guilty to a child pornography charge and being sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his crimes where, once released from prison, he will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for the rest of his life.
In addition to Thompson’s case, FBI Special Agent Ellen Duffy was recognized for her efforts in moving the Hamilton case forward in the federal court system by working with Thompson, as well as her work in helping secure a 27-year sentence against Alan Williams for child pornography charges and for her work on the Jasper and Christine Shook cases.
West Virginia State Police Sgt. Jeff Chumley was also recognized for his work in targeting child pornography operations when he worked to ensure Christopher Oden, a man prosecuted by both the state of West Virginia and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for possessing sexually explicit images of minor victims, did not receive the camera, phone and laptop used to commit his crimes back once the prosecution was completed.
Sexual and pornographic cases weren’t the only ones warranting praise, though, when Powell explained that ATF Special Agent Seth Cox was recognized for his work in dismantling a complex firearms trafficking scheme involving Shauntae Placko, Sean Placko and Roger Williams, which stopped the trafficking of dozens of firearms into the Washington, D.C. area and resulted in a combined 12 years in prison for the three defendants.
The Eastern Panhandle Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force was also honored for its systematic dismantling of a large drug trafficking ring dubbed the Triple Crown Crew, which helped lead to the indictment of 33 people and prosecution of eight cases. Powell’s release said because of the task force’s work, 11 of the defendants have pleaded guilty and were sentenced to a combined 248 months in prison, while another seven defendants have admitted guilt and are awaiting sentencing. The remaining cases are still pending.
According to the release, the Potomac Highlands Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force was honored for helping to bring down a drug trafficking ring dubbed Operation Mountaintop which, in the dismantling of the drug operation had a widespread impact in Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral and Randolph counties and resulted in two of the defendants being sentenced to a combined 360 months in prison and two others admitting guilt and awaiting sentencing.
In addition to child pornography and drug cases, FBI Special Agent Peter Olinits and FBI Special Agent Lauren Koscho were both recognized for their work on an eight-month investigation into Elizabeth Jo Shirley, an American citizen and resident of Hedgesville, who has worked in the United States Intelligence Community for over two decades and was attempting to sell U.S. Intelligence information to Russia in exchange for asylum.
The release said the investigation involved approximately 72 records subpoenas, testimony from four grand jury witnesses, three 2703(d) Orders and 16 search warrants to search a residence, a storage unit, a vehicle, various electronic devices and various electronic accounts.
Because of Koscho and Olinits work, Shirley has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing, the release said.
The award ceremony was held at the Berkeley County Council chambers and included remarks from Powell and the presence of many local, state and federal law-enforcement leaders from throughout West Virginia.
Other ceremonies are planned in Wheeling and Clarksburg to honor more recipients of the U.S. Attorney Awards, the release said.