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Press Release

Law enforcement honored by U.S. Attorney at awards ceremony in Martinsburg

For Immediate Release
U.S. Attorney's Office, Northern District of West Virginia
Martinsburg U.S. Attorney Awards Ceremony
U.S. Attorney Bill Powell speaking at the Martinsburg U.S. Attorney Awards Ceremony

MARTINSBURG, WEST VIRGINIA – Eight law enforcement representatives were recognized today for their outstanding work in the greater Martinsburg area.

U.S. Attorney Bill Powell recognized the 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 with U.S. Attorney Awards for their contributions to create safer communities.

“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,” said Powell.  

Berkeley County Sheriff’s Deputy Colleen Thompson was honored for her tireless work in getting a child predator off the streets. Deputy Thompson pushed through many obstacles to ensure that Paul Hamilton paid for his crimes against a juvenile. Hamilton pled guilty to a child pornography charge and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison for his crimes. When released from prison, Hamilton will be under the supervision of the U.S. Probation Office for the rest of his life. Deputy Thompson doesn’t typically take on cases involving crimes against children, but she refused to stop until Hamilton was off the streets. 

FBI Special Agent Ellen Duffy is receiving an award for her efforts in moving the Hamilton case forward in the federal court system, working with Deputy Thompson. Special Agent Duffy’s commitment to protecting children shows in her daily work. She has been a key to putting many other child pornography perpetrators behind bars. Agent Duffy helped secure a 27-year sentence against Alan Williams for child pornography charges. Her work on the Jasper and Christine Shook cases was also exemplary. 

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. Special Agent Cox’s efforts stopped the trafficking of dozens of firearms into the Washington, D.C. area. He was integral in securing a combined 12 years in prison for the three defendants. 
The Eastern Panhandle Drug & Violent Crimes Task Force Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force was the key to dismantling a large drug trafficking ring dubbed the triple Crown Crew. The Triple Crown Crew investigation is an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force case that led to the indictment of thirty-three people and prosecution of eight cases. The Eastern Panhandle Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force completed nearly a yearlong investigation into the trafficking of fentanyl, heroin, cocaine base, and cocaine hydrochloride in the Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia. The drugs were distributed throughout the eastern panhandle to include Jefferson and Berkeley Counties in West Virginia. Because of their efforts, 11 of the defendants have pled guilty and were sentenced to a combined 248 months in prison. Another seven defendants have admitted guilt and are awaiting sentencing. The other cases are still pending. 

The Potomac Highlands Drug and Violent Crimes Task Force was honored for helped bring down a drug trafficking ring dubbed Operation Mountaintop. This case arises out of an Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force investigation into the distribution of crystal methamphetamine by various individuals in the area of Mineral County, West Virginia and elsewhere. Giovanni Geonard Ingersoll, also known as Mike Avery, and Victor Witcher transported pounds of crystal methamphetamine from the Akron, Ohio area into the Mineral County, West Virginia area. This was a well put together case that involved a large investment of investigative time and resources.  The dismantling of the drug operation had a widespread impact in Grant, Hampshire, Hardy, Mineral, and Randolph counties.  As a result, two of the defendants have been sentenced to a combined 360 months in prison. Two other defendants have admitted guilt and awaiting sentencing.

West Virginia State Police Sergeant Jeff Chumley was recognized for his work in ensuring that the very things that were used to commit a child pornography crime stayed out of the hands of the offender. Christopher Oden was prosecuted by both the state of West Virginia and our office for possessing sexually explicit images of minor victims. As part of the investigation, West Virginia State Police seized various property from Mr. Oden, including a laptop computer, a phone, and a camera. After his prosecution was complete, Mr. Oden wanted his property back, with special emphasis on the laptop. Sgt. Chumley’s efforts went above and beyond to make sure that Oden’s laptop, phone, and camera weren’t returned to him.

FBI Special Agent Peter Olinits and FBI Special Agent Lauren Koscho spent tireless hours and traveled hundreds of miles in the eight-month investigation into Elizabeth Jo Shirley, an American citizen and resident of Hedgesville, West Virginia, who has worked in the United States Intelligence Community for over two decades. The investigation involved approximately 72 records subpoenas, testimony from four grand jury witnesses, three 2703(d) Orders, and 16 search warrants (a residence, a storage unit, a vehicle, various electronic devices, and various electronic accounts). Shirley has pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing. 

The ceremony was held at the Berkeley County Council Chambers and included remarks from U.S. Attorney Bill 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.

Updated October 6, 2020