Police: Salem Township man ran 'chop shop' using ATVs, mowers
The operator of the fledgling Outlaw Tree Service, who already is charged with allegedly stealing all-terrain vehicles and lawn tractors from around Westmoreland County and selling meth out of a Salem Township trailer park, now is accused of operating an illegal chop shop.
William Elvin Cochran, 31, of Salem Township was arraigned Wednesday before Washington Township District Judge Jason Buczak on new charges filed by state police. Those include illegal operation of a chop shop, theft, altering vehicle identification numbers, receiving stolen property, defiant trespass and criminal mischief.
Cochran has been in Westmoreland County Jail since Nov. 27 on $100,000 bond after state police arrested him at his Hawk Drive home for allegedly threatening to kill a woman after she confronted him about physically abusing a dog. Troopers said she provided them surveillance footage of the animal cruelty.
The new charges related to accusations that Cochran stole a hauler trailer from a landscape contractor in Hempfield and then used it to haul power tools and riding lawnmowers from vehicles owned by landscapers and tree trimmers as they worked near Slickville, in Salem Township, and in Hempfield, according to court documents.
While in jail, investigators followed up on other information provided by the woman about Cochran hording “stolen chainsaws, tree trimming equipment, a weed trimmer, a Garmin GPS unit and utility trailers,” according to court documents.
Troopers obtained search warrants, including for an enclosed trailer that Cochran allegedly kept on a relative’s property near Irwin that was reported stolen from the Tractor Supply store in Murrysville.
“William has been stealing trailers with his Dodge Ram for the last two months,” troopers reported the woman telling investigators.
Cochran would then alter the vehicle identification numbers on the items, paint them and install new lights on trailers to avoid them being detected by investigators, troopers reported.
In July, state police accused Cochran of stealing lawn tractors and ATVs from dealerships in North Huntingdon, Salem and Sewickley townships.
Cochran is awaiting trial April 1 on allegations he stole a $12,000 ATV from Norwin Supply Co. in North Huntingdon, a $5,000 riding lawn tractor from Labuda Farm Service in Sewickley Township and a zero-turn riding lawn mower and a second Dixie Chopper mower, both valued at $4,500, from West Central Equipment in Salem.
He is awaiting trial on felony drug counts for allegedly selling methamphetamine out of Forbes Trail Trailer Park. Those charges were filed by agents with the state Attorney General’s drug task force after police reported using an informant to buy drugs from Cochran twice in February.
On Wednesday, Buczak increased Cochran’s bail to $250,000 and scheduled preliminary hearings on the new complaints for Jan. 7.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.