‘The case is bigger than just North Georgia’; the end of a multi-state crime spree?

Three wanted men are in custody after a brief chase and manhunt in Clarkesville Wednesday afternoon but one officer says this case goes well beyond the Georgia border.

Habersham County officials were contacted by investigators in the Dalton area who were tracking a rental vehicle with three suspects who were involved in burglaries and thefts in their jurisdiction. It was traced to Habersham County, where a sheriff’s deputy spotted it near Dairy Queen in Clarkesville.

The deputy attempted to stop the vehicle, but the driver fled initiating a brief chase that ended in front of Dunkin Donuts in Clarkesville. All three occupants fled on foot. Two went onto the Wilbanks Lumber property, while the third went into nearby woods.

The two who went into the grounds of Wilbanks Lumber were apprehended shortly after in a woodpile inside a building. One of them was wanted for aggravated assault.

Because of windy conditions and the saturated ground, K9 teams were unable get a good track on the third man.

But about 8 p.m. Habersham Sheriff’s Investigator George Cason, Clarkesville Police Chief Danny Clouatre and Officer Brant Benoit spotted a vehicle pick up a man who came out of the woods and then immediately leave the area. It was later stopped, and the third suspect arrested.

In addition to pending obstruction and fleeing charges, “there was a crime that was committed there at My Georgia Credit Union where a debit card was used from a member of My Georgia Credit Union by these men, and we’re going to be following up on that,” Cason said.

Cason said the case is bigger than just North Georgia.

“They’re going around using debit cards, credit cards, fraudulent checks, doing a lot of fraud and stuff where they’re stealing money from people,” Cason said. “It’s tied into about five different states, possibly six, all the way even out to Texas.”

Cason said the driver who picked up the third man will not face charges.

“She was very cooperative,” Cason sad.

She had been called by the man saying there had been an emergency and she needed to come get him. Cason said when she saw that he was hot and sweaty, she suspected something might be wrong.

“She was just waiting for one of us to pull her over,” Cason said.