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Can't Buy a Thrill

Aspen's bizarre crime spree sent some of its favorite sons to prison -- and left the town wondering what went wrong.

Nathan abhorred waste. He figured the Jeep was a rental. Suddenly it didn't seem like a bad idea, relieving this cell-head of his wheels -- because, as he later explained to police, "Aspen is infested with people like that. And I needed to get to college, and my parents are not really in a relationship -- I don't live there anymore, so it's up in the air who's going to pay for college...So, just like that, it happened."

He hopped in when the gabber wasn't looking and drove the Jeep into the hills, where he could stash it for later use. Then he walked home.

On September 20, Moses was looking for a ride to Denver for a doctor's appointment the next day. Jacob Richards had been talking about a house on Twining Flats Road that was ripe for the picking; he used to work there, and he had a key. Among the spoils were a Range Rover and three shotguns.

Aspen school superintendent Tom Farrell visited several of the robbers in jail: "Every little kid in town knew who they were."The youngest of the Aspen robbers, Cody Wille was handed one of the harshest sentences. Now a resident of the state's Youthful Offender System, he turned eighteen last month.Raoul Wille (right), Cody's father, was a legendary risk-taker who died in the Himalayas. Following her son's arrest, Kim Wille (above) embarked on a quest to bring restorative justice programs to the Roaring Fork Valley.His first burglary was such a rush that Yuri Ognacevic agreed to be the wheel man on an armed robbery.Jacob Richards (top) helped Moses Greengrass (center) and others plan the Clark's Market robbery. Two weeks later, Wade Hammond (bottom) joined Greengrass in a similar robbery in Snowmass.
Aspen school superintendent Tom Farrell visited several of the robbers in jail: "Every little kid in town knew who they were."The youngest of the Aspen robbers, Cody Wille was handed one of the harshest sentences. Now a resident of the state's Youthful Offender System, he turned eighteen last month.Raoul Wille (right), Cody's father, was a legendary risk-taker who died in the Himalayas. Following her son's arrest, Kim Wille (above) embarked on a quest to bring restorative justice programs to the Roaring Fork Valley.His first burglary was such a rush that Yuri Ognacevic agreed to be the wheel man on an armed robbery.Jacob Richards (top) helped Moses Greengrass (center) and others plan the Clark's Market robbery. Two weeks later, Wade Hammond (bottom) joined Greengrass in a similar robbery in Snowmass.
The youngest of the Aspen robbers, Cody Wille was handed one of the harshest sentences. Now a resident of the state's Youthful Offender System, he turned eighteen last month.
Brett Amole
The youngest of the Aspen robbers, Cody Wille was handed one of the harshest sentences. Now a resident of the state's Youthful Offender System, he turned eighteen last month.

A grand idea emerged: Why not a road trip? They could find a chop shop in Boulder that would buy the Rover and Nathan's stolen Jeep, visit Yuri and other pals from Aspen who were now attending the University of Colorado, and Moses could keep his appointment.

That night Moses, Jacob, Nathan and Anthony Rizzuto headed over to Twining Flats. Jacob grabbed the shotguns and a bottle of champagne from the fridge. It took three different drivers to maneuver the Range Rover out of the garage, scraping its side in the process. Nathan waited in the Jeep.

They reached Boulder in the middle of the night, woke up Yuri and Jason Albert, another recent Aspen grad, and tried to figure out where to park the hot wheels. While they were caravaning around town -- Nathan and Anthony in the Jeep, Yuri and Moses in the Range Rover, Jacob and Jason in Jason's Yukon -- an alert Boulder police officer located the Jeep's plates on a list of stolen vehicles.

Nathan was pulled over. He handed the cop his driver's license, then impulsively took off. The Jeep crashed into a parked car a few blocks away. Nathan and Anthony ran. But there was nowhere for Nathan to go. The cop had his ID, and he soon turned himself in.

Tearful yet oddly defiant, he gave the Boulder cops an account of his crimes and others that would soon have them on the horn with the Aspen police. His confession was laced with eat-the-rich statements that would cause an uproar back in his hometown, statements he recanted a few days later in an apology published in the Aspen Times.

"Well, it makes perfect sense," he told the cops. "I mean, a bunch of poor little kids like us running around, dealing with rich people every single day, multibillionaires. It just starts to click in your head, 'Why am I getting paid eight dollars an hour and these people are treating me like crap?' So we just got fed up with them."

Within hours of Nathan's arrest, Jacob, Yuri, Moses and Anthony blew town in Jason Albert's Yukon. Jason drove; although he was not implicated in any of the robberies or burglaries, Nathan had accused him and Yuri of trafficking in stolen bike parts. (No charges were ever filed as a result of the allegation.)

They crossed the border north of Eureka, Montana, and checked into a Holiday Inn in Whistler, British Columbia. The lamsters had no coherent plan beyond visiting a friend in the area, but a few of their associates had been told of their itinerary. After discovering that her son was a suspect and possibly on the run, Mayor Richards started calling Jacob's friends, pleading for information. Within days she was on a plane, along with Jason Albert's father and Yuri's mother, to bring them home.

Not all of the youths were ready to come back. Not all of their parents had the resources to fly to Canada to persuade them to return. Moses, for one, made the trip home on his own.

He hitchhiked.


In August, when the robberies were at their peak, Aspen Times cartoonist Chris Cassatt drew a caricature of a businessman for the editorial page. "Let this be a notice to you armed robbers out there," the man said in the first panel. "This kind of behavior is totally unacceptable in our valley. It's totally against the way we do things."

Panel two: "Here we do our robbery with cash registers."

In October, after the identity of eight of the robbers became known, Cassatt produced another cartoon on the subject -- a map of the Roaring Fork Valley, with Aspen designated the "City of Broken Hearts."

At the time, Cassatt did not know that his own son, Alex, would later be charged as a peripheral player in the crime spree.


Piece by piece, the investigators sorted it out. Some of the suspects insisted they were innocent. Others were willing to admit their own role in the crimes but refused to give up their accomplices. A few agreed to testify against the others as part of a plea deal.

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