By Kristy Kibler
Five people have been arrested and warrants have been issued for four others in connection to several cases of Mexican migrant workers being assaulted and robbed while working on Wyoming County farms.
Melissa R. Cotton, 19, of Farmersville; Gunner Northrup, 19, of Arcade; Brittany Wiedemann, 19, of Sardinia; Timothy G. Kuhn, 20, of Franklinville; and Allen M. Seckler, 24, of Franklinville were remanded to the Wyoming County Jail last week on robbery charges following an extensive investigation by members of the Wyoming County Sheriff’s Office.
Wyoming County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Edward Till said the group was able to get the victims’ guard down before the assaults because Cotton and Wiedemann were acquaintances to many of them.
“The females knew the victims, and eventually they’d bring these guys along with them that would end up robbing them,” Till said.
According to the Sheriff’s Office, the investigation began in late July when deputies took the report of a migrant worker who had been robbed in Castile. The victim reported that he had been strangled unconscious and robbed by five people who had made off with his wallet and other personal belongings. He suffered minor injuries but was able to provide the officers with descriptions of the subjects.
Several days later, a migrant worker in Pike reported being robbed. Multiple subjects assaulted the victim, and he sustained head and facial injuries. The perpetrators escaped with cash and other personal items belonging to the victim.
A break in the case appeared on July 29, when Deputy Colin Reagan stopped a car in Covington for traffic infractions. The occupants—Cotton, Northrup, Wiedemann, Kuhn and Seckler—matched the descriptions of the suspects given by the victims. They all gave conflicting reports concerning their reasons for being out. Several items in the vehicle were seized, and all five subjects were released following interviews with Sheriff’s Department investigators.
Identification located in one of the vehicle occupant’s shoes helped investigators located two more victims. Investigation later revealed that the same five subjects had just robbed two migrant workers in Sheldon just hours before the July 29 traffic stop. The two victims were assaulted and robbed after they were lured into a vehicle under the pretense of getting a ride to the store and then driven into a cornfield.
The five suspects were arrested, charged with robbery in the second degree and remanded to the Wyoming County Jail in lieu of bail amounts ranging from $50,000 to $200,00. Seckler was charged with two additional counts of second-degree robbery, as well. Additional charges and arrests are to follow.
The total amount stolen from the four victims amounted to approximately $2,500 in cash, as well as several cell phones, a computer and several other miscellaneous items.
Till said the Sheriff’s Office is confident there are more victims.
“We’re just trying to locate them,” he said. “We believe there may be victims in Livingston and Erie counties, as well. We’re working with other agencies to identify the other victims that are out there.”
Till acknowledged that some victims might be hesitant to come forward because of their migrant status.
“It’s a tough field with the migrants—some are in the country legally, some are obviously in the country illegally. Some fear deportation if they have police contact,” he said. “We’re working with Immigration and Customs, and if they are in the country illegally, we can do everything (we can) to keep them in the country and get them legal status.”
No other arrests have been made yet of the four suspects out on warrants.
“Three we believe are out of state, but a few we think we know where they are,” Till said. “It’s just going to take some time. We’re going to get everyone here eventually.”
Although there have been no more warrants issued besides the original four, Till said more are possible as the investigation continues.
Lieutenant Till, Investigator Aaron Anderson, Forensic Evidence Technician Steven Miller and Deputy Ivan Carrasquillo led the investigation, and they were assisted by members of the road patrol and Wyoming County Drug Task Force.
“I just commend all the guys in the Sheriff’s Office … just everybody worked together well, shared information and came to a successful ending,” he said.