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Suspect in railroad boxcar theft hit with 26 counts

By Joe Beck -- jbeck@nvdaily.com

FRONT ROYAL -- Police gave details Thursday of the 26 felony and misdemeanor counts facing a Front Royal man in connection with the theft of cargo from a Norfolk Southern Corp. railroad boxcar.

According to police, the list of charges against Michael Creed Smith, 20, of West 14th Street, breaks down as follows: seven counts each of vandalism and breaking and entering into railroad cars; four counts of grand larceny; three counts of petit larceny; one count each of causing or encouraging the delinquency of a child; trespassing on railroad trains; trespassing on railroad tracks; conspiracy to trespass or commit grand larceny; and receipt of a stolen firearm.

Additional charges are pending against a 15-year-old accused of being involved in the theft.

Smith was arrested under warrants issued Tuesday, Police Chief Richard H. Furr said. He is accused of stealing goods from boxcars standing on railroad tracks near the former 15th Street middle school.

The investigation was triggered by a citizen who discovered property along the tracks while walking his dog on April 6, according to police. Investigators called to the scene found lawn and garden equipment, some of it still in original boxes, and a new love seat.

Police said investigators found similar items for sale on the Internet the next day, contacted the seller and arranged a meeting to look at the property. Police concluded that the property had been removed from some empty boxes found at the crime scene on West 15th Street. Police said the property appeared to have been stolen from a Norfolk Southern boxcar.

Front Royal police said the railroad's police department joined them and became the lead agency as the investigation progressed to the recovery of additional stolen property and Smith's arrest.

Furr said thefts from railroad cars are common, but they usually aren't discovered until the train reaches its final route destination and inventory is unloaded. By then, it's often too late to locate where the missing property was taken along routes that can run hundreds or thousands of miles, he said.

"It's really a difficult investigation to go back on," Furr said. "We were fortunate this time we were able to locate the property and go from there."

Smith is scheduled to make his first appearance in Warren County General District Court on May 22, police said.

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