An arrest warrant was issued Sept. 3 against an Arkansas man accused of stealing a vehicle from the parking lot of the Cherokee Casino in Roland, court records indicate.
John Clement, 27, of Van Buren, Ark., was charged with larceny of an automobile, a felony punishable by up to five years in the Department of Corrections or by a fine in an amount equal to three times the value of the property that was stolen, or by fine, imprisonment and restitution.
On July 25, a Roland police officer was dispatched to the south entrance of the casino in reference to a possible stolen vehicle. Upon arriving at the casino, Heath Baty reported that he arrived at the casino in his mother’s 2002 Chevrolet Venture at about 3:30 p.m. He said he parked the van in the south parking lot and left the keys in it, thinking it was safe to do so. Baty said he went inside the casino with some friends and didn’t realize the van was missing until about 5 p.m.
Because the van was in his mother’s name, Baty was told that she would have to report the van stolen. Baty said his disabled mother lived in Fort Smith and that he would do his best to get her to the Roland Police Department to make the report.
After speaking with Baty, a casino security officer told police that they had surveillance footage of a male subject who left the casino in the van and had arrived at the casino with two other male subjects and was still inside the casino.
Officers then made contact with Maverick Merechka, who was escorted to the casino’s holding room for questioning. Merechka told police he arrived at the casino with two friends, one of whom was Clement. Merechka said Clement had become his roommate that same day and that he didn’t know him very well.
Merechka contacted Clement to gain information on where he was but was unsuccessful. He said he did his best, however, to try and get Clement to return to the casino and relinquish the van.
Surveillance video showed a male wearing a black ball cap, gray shirt, baggy gray pants, sunglasses and a beard. Believed to be Clement, the male is shown walking to the van and leaving in it.
The vehicle was entered into the NCIC database and officers were notified Aug. 14 that the van was recovered by the Fort Smith Police Department. The van was abandoned at 1001 N 10th St. in Fort Smith, where it had been sitting in the parking lot for about two weeks.
Laura Brown, KXMX Staff Writer
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