Nine charged in thefts, fraudulent returns
Eight residents of northern Washington County are in Butler County jail and a warrant has been issued for a ninth after they allegedly stole items from a Cranberry Township store and returned the stolen goods in exchange for gift cards.
Charged with being part of a corrupt organization, conspiracy, organized retail theft and theft by deception are Andrew Alvin Sines, 28, Stacy Lyle, 36, Shawn Lyle, 36, Heather Dillon, 36, and Rodney David Shaw, 40, all of McDonald; Richard D. Rodgers Jr., 36, of Hickory; and Cole Littleton, 30, of Joffre. A warrant has been issued for the arrest of Tomacina J. Walters, 29, of Slovan.
All nine are charged for their alleged roles in stealing almost $15,000 in merchandise from the Marshalls store in Cranberry Township and then returning the items for store gift cards at that store and at Marshalls stores in North Franklin Township; Robinson Township, Green Tree and Monroeville in Allegheny County; and Monaca in Beaver County.
Cranberry police Sgt. Chuck Mascellino said Thursday that his department was made aware of the thefts by the store’s loss-prevention department.
“Between Oct. 27 and Nov. 26, they reportedly made 75 merchandise returns without receipts,” Mascellino said. “They’d either return the items to the same store or one of the other stores for gift cards. They would then take the gift cards to a pawn shop or gold exchange store and get about 50 cents on the dollar.”
Mascellino said the suspects would use their own identification or those of the others in order to make the exchanges, and that’s when loss-prevention officers noticed the large number of returns by the same people. Those transactions were then verified through surveillance video at the stores, he said.
“Some were more involved than others,” Mascellino said. “Some did more transactions than others.”
Because the alleged crimes occurred in different jurisdictions, Cranberry police contacted the state police organized crime unit for assistance.
Two Cranberry detectives and four state troopers went to McDonald to look for the suspects. McDonald police and Chief Mark Dorsey also were called for assistance in locating them.
Dorsey said that his department was contacted Monday by police from the state and Cranberry who let his officers know of their plans. About a half-dozen McDonald police officers assisted.
“Most all of them we have had contact with before in at least one of the jurisdictions we cover,” Dorsey said of his department which covers four other communities in northern Washington County. “There is a lot of recidivism with them. Most of them are addicted to heroin and needed the money to maintain their supply.”
“They were a great help to us,” Mascellino said of Dorsey and borough police officers.
The sergeant said the eight who are in custody are cooperating with investigators.
“They have indicated that five other chain stores, including Lowe’s, also were involved,” Mascellino added. “More charges could be coming.”
Sines and the Lyles are each in jail on $100,000 bonds set at their arraignment Tuesday before District Judge David T. Kovach. The other five in custody are in jail on $50,000 bonds. Walters is expected to turn herself in to Cranberry police.
A preliminary hearing for the group is set for Jan. 24 before Kovach.