2009-02-05 / Front Page

Police Crack Hustontown Burglary Ring

Six charged in 24 county incidents
By Chanin Rotz-Mountz STAFF WRITER

were charged this week following an ongoing and extensive investigation by criminal investigators with the Pennsylvania State Police, bringing to a halt a rash of break-ins and thefts that primarily occurred in northern Fulton County but also spilled into bordering counties.

Twenty-five-year-old Max Harold McQuait III, already being held in the Franklin County Prison, currently faces an array of charges spanning 24 different incidents in Fulton County, with the first dating back to June 2007 and the most recent occurring in mid-December 2008, Trooper James Lupey of the McConnellsburg state police barracks told the "News."

Aiding McQuait and allegedly playing a role in some of the burglaries and thefts in Fulton, Huntingdon and Bedford counties were Christopher George Shotts of 3823 North Clear Ridge Road; Brian Allen Cutchall, 379 Pitt Street; Jonathan Lee Kauffman of 7475 Waterfall Road; Joshua Michael Weaver, 3404 North Clear Ridge Road; and Samuel Gardner Ranck III, 353 Pitt Street.

Max McQuait III

Docket sheets indicate the first in a long line of formal charges against McQuait began rolling in on January 13. Mc- Quait was charged through Needmore-based Judge Carol Jean Johnson and District Judge Wendy Mellott of Mc- Connellsburg in connection with cases that were initiated on December 30, 2008, and January 6, 2009. Unsecured bail totalling $35,000 was posted for the charges involving theft by unlawful taking-movable property, receiving stolen property, criminal conspiracy-theft, criminal mischief and access device fraud.

Trooper Lupey indicated the charges against McQuait through Judge Johnson's office involve two separate thefts from Town Hill Salvage yard in mid- June 2007 as well as an incident at Breeze Auto Sales along Route 30 near the Bedford County line. Brian Cutchall, Lupey added, has also been charged with the two incidents at Town Hill, while Joshua Weaver allegedly lended McQuait a hand at Breeze Auto Sales.

The multitude of charges against McQuait, however, have been filed through the Magisterial District Judge Devin Horne based on the repeated occurances in the northern end of the county that left many residents wary of coming home to an empty house.

In criminal complaints and affidavits of probable cause, Trooper Lupey states the first confirmed theft in the north occurred between January 14, 2008, and April 9, 2008, at the Barry Stofflet farm located along McKinleyville Road in Taylor Township. In an interview with state police, Stofflet indicated he had previously made an arrangement with McQuait, who was to haul away items that had been marked with blue spray paint. Stofflet and McQuait would then split the money received for the scrap metal. A variety of farm equipment, farm machinery, stoves and scrap metal, with a value of $2,990, were cashed in, but Stofflet never received his share of the money.

A short distance away, between February 15 and June 2008, in a field located on the northern side of Iron Bridge Road in Taylor Township and adjacent to Shotts' residence, an aluminum boat belonging to William Ray Voegel Jr. was stolen. The boat was valued at $150 and was loaded into a truck and taken to Slates Salvage.

Everhart and Hoover Construction of 389 North Clear Ridge Road, Hustontown, reported to state police two polemounted transformers were stolen from its property between March 3 and March 5, 2008. In actuality, the aluminum was removed from the transformers, which were then tossed onto the back of the company's trucks. The transformers were valued at $750 total.

Hustontown-based electrician Dennis Hess reported that between March 27 and March 31, burglars pried open a door to his storage garage located next to his residence at 1646 North Hess Road and stole 18 rolls of electrical wiring. The wiring was valued at $1,365. The wire was allegedly rolled out of a van inside the garage and onto the roadway where it was loaded into a truck.

In early April 2008, a 12-foot aluminum flat-bottom boat with two swivel seats was stolen from next to a pond on the Gary Hawkins property located near the intersection of Pump Station and North Hess roads. It was taken to Slates Salvage where $40 was given for the item.

Remsburg's Salvage Yard just off R&D Lane in Todd Township was the site of the next incident that happened sometime April 25 or 26. A total of 36 catalytic converters estimated at $2,700 were removed from an unlocked van that was located in the salvage yard. The converters were sold and the money was split.

In mid-August, a door between the main garage doors at Hometown Garage of 477 North Clear Ridge Road was pried open. Approximately $1,200 was stolen from a cash register placed inside a file cabinet.

McQuait is also allegedly linked to a burglary that occurred only two weeks later at the Cole Road residence of his father, Max McQuait Jr., in Taylor Township. On August 29, 2008, McQuait reportedly crawled into the home through a window and stole $351 from a cash box kept in his father's bedroom. The money was spent on items such as food and gas.

A coin machine was stolen from Get It Wet Car Wash along Great Cove Road in Dublin Township between October 2 and October 4. The machine, state police indicated, was hidden in a wooded area along Cherry Lane until the price of aluminum and scrap metal rose.

Owners of the Twist and Shake reported that sometime October 21 or October 22 their business located at 7557 Waterfall Road, Hustontown, was burglarized. An affidavit of probable cause shows $172 in cash was stolen from three separate locations within the building after a basement door and a first-floor rear door were pried open.

Betty Shotts, Christopher "Bucky" Shott's grandmother, was the victim of a burglary and theft on October 30 at her Taylor Township home at 2820 North Hess Road. McQuait had visited the residence previously with Christopher Shotts, who is also charged in the spree of ongoing thefts and burglaries.

McQuait allegedly returned to Everhart and Hoover Construction on November 5 or 6 and removed a Stihl gas-powered drill, a Stihl 021 chain saw with a 16-inch bar and approximately 50 feet of copper wire from an unlocked utility truck, a complaint and affidavit said.

Between 9 p.m. and 10:30 p.m. on November 8, various coins valued at $600 were stolen from the Lee Tice home located at 1006 North Clear Ridge Road in Dublin Township. The Tice family was reportedly at the Hustontown Firehall when the money was stolen.

Christopher Lipko, who resides at 879 North Madden Road in Taylor Township, was initially unable to determine how burglars entered his home until he discovered the screen to his laundry room window was removed and lying on the ground. A further search of his residence revealed a total of $1,270 in miscellaneous change and cash that was carried from the scene in a duffel bag belonging to Lipko was missing.

One week later, Jill Cline of 3660 North Hess Road reported to state police burglars forced open a basement window and then proceeded to remove $690.

The front window pane was taken off the the South Madden Road home of Donald Brown sometime December 1 or 2, an affidavit of probable cause filed against McQuait states. A total of $1,300 was stolen from a lockbox inside Brown's bedroom closet. A getaway vehicle used in the break-in was parked at the nearby Winegardner Schoolhouse.

The same day, Phyllis Mc- Clure reported to state police investigators burglars attempted to break into her 6038 Waterfall Road home by prying open a stainless steel door. Entry was not made to the home, which suffered $25 in damage to door trim.

On December 7 or 8, Kee- Ta-Quay Construction of Hustontown fell prey to a burglary that resulted in almost $5,000 in coins, prescription medications and cigarettes being stolen.

Randy King of 645 Timber Edge Road obtained a license plate number that was traced back to McQuait after he spotted a strange Chevrolet Blazer parked not far from his residence on December 17. King also found footprints in the snow that led to his front door and determined his lock box had been rummaged through.

Charges against McQuait and Joshua Weaver have also been filed through the Orbisonia office of Magisterial District Judge Mary Jamison, stated Trooper Lupey. The duo allegedly stole a salt spreader belonging to Springfield Township in southern Huntingdon County.

McQuait, who is represented by court-appointed attorney Dwight Harvey, has admitted his involvement in many of the burglaries. He has, however, denied his involvement in several cases. His involvement in those episodes has been confirmed through interviews and confessions made by the remaining five Hustontown men believed to be involved in the cases.

Brian Cutchall

Twenty-one-year-old Brian Cutchall has been charged by Trooper Lupey in connection with four of the incidents occurring in northern Fulton County within the last year as well as the two thefts at Town Hill Salvage. Among those Cutchall is linked to is the March break-in at Hess's Electric Storage Garage where 1 1/2 dozen rolls of electrical wire were stolen. Cutchall allegedly dropped McQuait off and returned approximately 30 minutes later and helped load the copper wire into the back of a truck, an affidavit said. The wire was reportedly "burned off" at a home belonging to a relative of McQuait's.

Cutchall, state police added, was also on hand when Gary Hawkin's flat-bottom aluminum boat was stolen. He allegedly drove McQuait's truck while the boat was dragged to a nearby intersection and loaded.

Cutchall is also accused of taking part in the burglary at the home of Jill Cline as well as the more recent burglary at Donald Brown's. Cutchall denied his involvement in the episode at Brown's, telling state police that the Brown family were "nice friends and went to his pap's church." Cutchall also said that if he needed money Brown would simply loan it to him, an affidavit of probable cause stated.

He was arraigned before District Judge Horne Tuesday morning and was released after posting $150,000, or $25,000 per case.

Jonathan Kauffman

Kauffman, 23, has also been linked by police investigators to four of the more recent incidents in northern Fulton County, including the Twist and Shake, Jill Cline home, Phyllis McClure residence and Kee-Ta-Quay Construction. He was also one of two individuals charged in burglarizing the Mile Level Sub & Pizza Shop in Bedford. Charges in Bedford County were filed through the office of Magisterial District Judge Kathy Calhoun.

Kauffman, an affidavit noted, was pegged by three of the remaining five men for his involvement with McQuait in "robbing" the Twist and Shake during a time frame of only 20 minutes. Kauffman, state police were told, was also involved with the burglary at the Jill Cline residence where $690 in cash was stolen. Kauffman allegedly drove Mc- Quait's truck while the crime was committed.

In an interview with one of six men, state police also learned Kauffman and McQuait reportedly drove to the home of Phyllis McClure, but Kauffman was unsuccessful gaining entry to the house.

Furthermore, McQuait allegedly admitted to police investigators he and Kauffman went into Kee-Ta-Quay through an open back door and stole money that was spent on gas and food.

Kauffman was also arraigned before Judge Horne on Tuesday and remanded to the Franklin County Prison in lieu of $125,000 bail.

Christopher Shotts

Twenty-six-year-old Christopher "Bucky" Shotts was charged this week through the office of Magisterial District Judge Horne with four incidents that were investigated at the Stofflet farm, a field along Iron Bridge Road, Everhart and Hoover Construction, and at Dennis Hess's storage garage. In speaking with police, the affidavit said, Shotts reportedly told investigators he helped McQuait remove "two loads of junk" from Stofflet's property. At the conclusion of the interview, Shotts stated, he "couldn't believe they are squealing. They were all supposed to be friends."

Shotts, an affidavit further stated, acknowledged stealing an aluminum boat belonging to his neighbor, William Ray Voegel Jr., with assistance from Mc- Quait. The boat supposedly had been covered with leaves and had a hole in it.

Shotts was also fingered by one of the alleged burglars for tearing apart the transformers at Everhart and Hoover and loading stolen wire along the roadway adjacent to Hess's to Hess's garage.

He was arraigned and remanded to the Franklin County Prison in lieu of $100,000 bail.

Joshua Weaver

In addition to his alleged involvement at Breeze Auto Sales, 20-year-old Joshua Weaver is also reportedly connected with the theft of a salt spreader in Huntingdon County and the theft of catalytic converters at Remsburg Salvage Yard. Weaver allegedly aided McQuait in taking 36 catalytic converters that had been stored inside an unlocked van. Weaver's truck was utilized in hauling them, and the duo split the money from their sale.

Samuel Ranck

Twenty-five-year-old Samuel Ranck has been tabbed for his alleged participation with Jonathan Kauffman during a break-in at the Mile Level Sub & Pizza Shop in Bedford County. Ranck was also charged locally through the office of Magisterial District Judge Horne for a burglary at the North Madden Road residence of Christopher Lipko that occurred on November 21 between 6:20 a.m. and 3:20 a.m.

In an interview with state police investigators, an affidavit said, Ranck stated he and Mc- Quait drove to to Lipko's home in McQuait's Chevrolet Blazer that was pulled into a nearby wooded area. McQuait, Ranck told police, returned to the vehicle 30 minutes later with a duffel bag containing money.

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