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Former Columbus man faces extradition, numerous charges


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A former Columbus and Jennings County resident who owned a North Vernon auto dealership awaits extradition to Indiana to face multiple federal and state felony charges after eluding police for more than a year.

Federal marshals arrested Courtney Lee Crouch Sr., 55, on March 17 in Baldwin County, Ala., near the Gulf of Mexico. He faces charges involving drug-dealing, illegal possession of firearms and submitting false documents to the FBI. The charges stem from two incidents in 2011.

Crouch had been on the run since February 2012, when he was granted bail by a federal magistrate in Indianapolis.

Federal marshals were arranging for Crouch, the former owner of Buy Rite Auto Sales, to be returned to face federal charges in Indianapolis and state charges in Vernon, U.S. Attorney’s Office spokesman Timothy Horty said.

Charges against Crouch

FEDERAL

Three counts of making or using a false writing or document: Maximum penalty five years on each count, and up to a $250,000 fine on each count

Three counts of obstruction of justice: Maximum penalty 10 years on each count and up to a $250,000 fine on each count

Being a convicted felon in possession of firearms: Maximum penalty 10 years and up to a $250,000 fine

STATE, LOCAL

Dealing in cocaine: Class B felony, maximum penalty 20 years and up to a $10,000 fine

Dealing in a controlled substance: Class C felony, maximum penalty eight years and up to a $10,000 fine

Possession of cocaine: Class C felony, maximum penalty eight years and up to a $10,000 fine

Neglect of a dependent: Class D felony, maximum penalty three years and up to a $10,000 fine

Dealing in marijuana: Class D felony, maximum penalty three years and up to a $10,000 fine

Unlawful possession of a legend drug: Class D felony, maximum penalty three years and up to a $10,000 fine

Possession of marijuana: Class D felony, maximum penalty three years and up to a $10,000 fine

Possession of a controlled substance: Class D felony, maximum penalty three years and up to a $10,000 fine

Maintaining a common nuisance: Class B misdemeanor, maximum penalty six months and up to a $1,000 fine

“It’s not that unusual in federal cases for extradition to take several weeks,” Horty said.

He said “all precautions are in place” in the event that Crouch is granted bail.

The state charges stem from a Feb. 16, 2011, search of Crouch’s home on County Road 140W in an area of southern Jennings County known as Old Paris.

At the time, Jennings County Sheriff Steve Hoppock said officers had to force their way inside when no one answered the door. Once they got through the door, deputies found Crouch and his then-12-year-old son in the living room.

Crouch, who grew up in a neighborhood east of downtown Columbus, was arrested and charged with nine counts of drug dealing and possession of illegal drugs after officers discovered cocaine, marijuana, hydrocodone, scales, paraphernalia and numerous other items associated with drug dealing during their search.

“(Crouch) was a major supplier of illegal drugs to our community,” Jennings County Deputy Sheriff Maj. Jerry Shepherd said Wednesday. “We are glad he is now off the streets and back in custody.”

Deputies also confiscated more than $30,000 in cash. The money was turned over to the FBI a few weeks later for federal asset-forfeiture proceedings.

The federal charges stem from incidents that took place five months after the search.

In July 2011, Crouch gave the FBI what appeared to be three notarized affidavits claiming the forfeited money actually belonged to Buy Rite Auto Sales for the purpose of buying automobile parts. He was requesting that the money be returned to his business.

However, a subsequent investigation indicated that the notary’s signature had been forged on at least two documents, according to a court document filed by FBI Special Agent Russell Warlick.

In addition, one of Crouch’s associates, whose signature appears on a affidavit, told authorities that despite what was stated, he didn’t keep track on whether the $30,000 was for Crouch’s business or personal expenses, Warlick stated.

In early October 2011, a federal grand jury in New Albany indicted Crouch on three counts of making or using a false statement or document and three counts of obstruction of justice. The indictment led to a second search of Crouch’s home and his auto dealership at 420 Third St., North Vernon.

The search turned up an AK-47 assault rifle, a semiautomatic pistol, a .357-caliber revolver and two other weapons.

Crouch, who had felony convictions related to being a habitual traffic offender, was charged with being a convicted felon in possession of firearms.

In spite of objections from U.S. Attorney Joseph Hogsett, who considered Crouch to be a flight risk, an Indianapolis-based magistrate allowed Crouch to be released on a $2,500 cash bond on Feb. 28, 2012.

After he left the courtroom, authorities could not find Crouch again until he was apprehended by federal marshals last month in Alabama.

Horty said that when Crouch is returned to the Midwest from the Gulf Coast, he likely will remain incarcerated in one of two federal facilities in Kentucky as legal proceedings are conducted in Indiana.

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