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October 23, 2008 3:02 am

Car thief pleads guilty to two of seven counts

Written by Tribune Staff

Ordered to pay nearly $9,000

A young Powell man accused of stealing and damaging seven Powell automobiles has pleaded guilty to two counts of felony car theft.

Tyson L. Flores, 18, had been accused of taking the vehicles for joyrides between late January and early March this year.

On Oct. 6, as part of a plea agreement, Flores pleaded guilty to two of the seven counts. District Court Judge Steven Cranfill gave Flores concurrent five-to-seven-year prison sentences, but they were suspended in favor of four years of supervised probation. Additionally, he was ordered to pay more than $8,920 in restitution to the owners of the cars he stole and damaged. Flores also must pay $470 in court fines.

However, Flores' attorney, Bill Simpson, made a motion asking that Judge Cranfill recognize his client as unable to pay.

Had Flores been convicted of all seven offenses, he could have faced up to 70 years in prison and $70,000 in fines.

The string of alleged incidents began in the early hours of Jan. 26, says an affidavit of probable cause signed by Powell Police Officer Brett Lara. Around 4 a.m., Flores went for a walk, looking for a vehicle he could take to go visit his cousin in the country.

After opening several vehicle doors, Flores found a 1991 GMC pickup parked on South Division Street with the keys in ignition, the document says. Flores then stole the vehicle, took his cousin for a short ride and left the truck parked at his cousin's house, court documents say. That's where law enforcement officers found the vehicle rougly one month later.

A few days later, in the early hours of Jan. 30, Flores took two more vehicles, the document says.

Wanting to visit his cousin again, he found an unlocked 1993 Nissan Sentra with the keys inside and stole it, the affidavit says. He was headed west on Avenue C when he thought he saw a cop car, panicked and drove it into a snowbank, the document says.

He then abandoned the snow-stuck vehicle in favor of a nearby 2002 Ford Escort, also unlocked. He took that vehicle to his cousin's house in the country, but on the return trip, hit a reflector pole — breaking the vehicle's front bumper.

At some point, the Escort's windshield also was cracked. Flores retrieved the bumper from the road and stuck it in the back seat before parking it near the Powell Valley Recycling Center, the affidavit says.

About two weeks later, the document says Flores took a fourth vehicle for a joyride to his cousin's. Finding a 1988 Chevrolet Celebrity unlocked with keys in the ignition, Flores climbed inside and drove to the Penrose Dam in the early morning of Feb. 15.

When the vehicle was found by the dam on Feb. 18, all of the windows and a headlight had been smashed in. Flores denied doing the damage, the affidavit says.

A few weeks later, on March 2, Flores again took vehicles joyriding, court documents say. According to an affidavit signed by Sgt. Bruce Olson of the Park County Sheriff's office, Flores stole three automobiles from residences on Road 6 and Lane 13. One vehicle had its tires knocked off their rims and a Ford van was driven into a ditch. A 2002 GMC Denali also was temporarily taken.

However, just before the first theft on March 2 was reported, Powell Police had received a tip from a confidential informant that Flores was behind the earlier thefts in town, and had stolen another vehicle.

As part of his sentence, Flores must undergo a substance abuse assessment.