Canonsburg resale shop owner arrested

February 1, 2013
John Moeller, who operates John’s Trading Post on North Central Avenue in Canonsburg, is escorted by Constable Paul Kosey to his arraignment Friday on theft and firearms charges. - Katie Roupe / Observer-Reporter Order a Print

The owner of a Canonsburg resale shop was arrested by state and Peters Township police in separate cases involving guns and stolen Pennsylvania artifacts valued at $1 million.

John Irwin Moeller, 46, of 103 Anderson Drive, North Strabane Township, is charged by state police Trooper Timothy Motte with six counts of persons not to possess firearms. Peters Township police Detective Bryan Barbour charged Moeller with burglary and theft in connection with the theft of a collection of artifacts that had been in a private museum. The alleged thefts began almost five years ago.

Moeller is identified in court documents as the owner and operator of John’s Trading Post, 20 N. Central Ave.

Canonsburg police were called to the resale store after a Canonsburg man found two of seven firearms that he had reported stolen by his stepson. The shop owner told police the man sold him six guns and indicated he was the legitimate owner. Two of the guns that Moeller purchased were then sold to Jack Dalbo of The Gunrunner in North Strabane.

Motte was contacted by Canonsburg police. The trooper determined Moeller was not permitted to possess firearms after pleading guilty to unrelated charges.

An informant also told the trooper Moeller told him he purchases guns. He told police he sold a rifle to Moeller for $50 July 6. He reportedly also sold additional guns to Moeller.

Moeller reportedly told the person, identified in the complaint as K.P., that he went to gun shows in Cleveland twice a month. Moeller also gave K.P. his cellphone number and offered to come in after hours to buy any guns K.P. might have, according to the affidavit.

Moeller told police he had sold about two dozen guns to Dalbo in the past. One of the guns Moeller presented to Dalbo was allegedly one that was exchanged at Moeller’s shop for Civil War memorabilia. When state police served a search warrant Sept. 7 at John’s Trading Post, 22 items seized were identified as being items stolen from a private museum owned by a Peters man.

On Jan. 18, 2012, Peters police launched an investigation into the theft of historical memorabilia. Gregory Connell, of 2782 Locust Drive, reported a theft at his home that happened before June 2011. Connell told police he was aware of the theft but refrained from telling his father, Robert Connell, who owned the property.

Gregory Connell and his wife, Kimberly Connell, were living in a log structure that is attached to his father’s home. The log building serves as a historical museum that concentrated on life in Pennsylvania from the time of the French and Indian War through World War I.

Police learned of an auction to be held Nov. 10 in Lycoming County. Photographs of Civil War artifacts were posted on a website for the auction. Robert Connell was able to identify the items up for auction as being stolen from his collection. It was determined two people from Pittsburgh purchased the items from Moeller for $600,000. They two who bought the artifacts did so with an understanding that the items were not stolen and had an affidavit from the Connells indicating that. Barbour was told the items were valued at $1 million.

Megan Kress, identified in the criminal complaint as Kimberly Connell’s daughter from a previous marriage, reportedly told Barbour she signed the affidavit allegedly prepared by Moeller indicating Robert Connell was dead and she was the executor of his estate.

Kress told police she started selling artifacts from the museum to Moeller in 2008. Kress, who has not been charged in the thefts, first sold a Civil War Irish Brigade sword to Moeller for $200, according to court documents.

In fall 2009, Moeller reportedly went to the Connell home. In exchange for $500, Kress allowed him to go through the building and take what he wanted. Moeller allegedly returned two more times, leaving with bags of memorabilia.

Police said Kimberly Connell told Barbour she was having financial problems in 2010 and remembered what her daughter had said about Moeller. He reportedly gave her $800 “to be let back into the cabin to get Civil War stuff.” She allegedly gave him access several more times, including at least once after the burglary was reported, according to court documents.

Barbour found photographs of Civil War memorabilia on Craig’s List offered for sale by Trader John of Canonsburg. The items were identified by Robert and Gregory Connell. The items seized in the search of Moeller’s shop in September also were identified by the Connells.

Police also allege Moeller never had permission from Robert Connell to enter his property.

Barbour said their investigation is continuing into the theft.

Moeller was arraigned Friday afternoon before District Judge David Mark. He was released from the Washington County jail after posting $5,000 of a $50,000 percentage bond. Preliminary hearings on the two cases were tentatively scheduled for later this month before Mark and District Judge James Ellis.

Kathie O. Warco has covered the police beat and transportation for the Observer-Reporter for more than 25 years. She graduated from Duquesne University with a degree in journalism.

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