2013-09-05 / Front Page

Three Arrests In Citgo Theft

By Chanin Rotz-Mountz

NEWS EDITOR

Three McConnellsburg men were arrested last week following a month-long investigation by Pennsylvania State Police into a theft from the Citgo service station in McConnellsburg.

Twenty-three-year-olds Kourtney Lee Branche and Hakeem Lowery Jefferson and Antonio Everette McNear, 24, were charged through the office of Magisterial District Judge Wendy Mellott on Tuesday, August 27, in connection with the theft of $1,500 on July 22.

Branche, of 354 Buchanan Trail, Apt. 2, faces one count each of theft by unlawful taking or disposition and criminal conspiracy, while Jefferson, street address unknown, along with McNear, of 431 Woodside Drive, are charged with criminal conspiracy.

State police investigator Trooper Joseph Watkins said in an affidavit of probable cause an employee and Citgo owner Darren Mellott first noticed the business’s cash register was short $1,500 in $20 bills shortly after 11:30 p.m. The employee, the affidavit stated, alleged the trio of men had been in the gas station earlier in the evening, and Branche and Mc- Near were asking questions about tires.

“The employee related McNear went to the garage area and started asking him questions about tires while Branche stayed at the cash register. He then related he went to the garage area to assist McNear when he noticed Jefferson was outside the building. He then related Jefferson started asking questions about bleeding a brake line then left,” the affidavit alleged.

The employee went on to tell investigators he thought he heard the cash register open, but when he turned to look McNear started asking additional questions about tires. McNear and Branche were last observed leaving the gas station and walking west on Lincoln Way past Johnnie’s Motel, police said.

State police in McConnellsburg and Chambersburg conducted the interviews with the trio of men regarding the theft.

Trooper Watkins alleged in charging documents Branche told him during an interview held August 1 that McNear was “the mastermind planning everything out. He further related McNear told him that he knew how to open the register because he stole money from Harr’s along Route 522 before.”

The money was reportedly split three ways, with Branche walking away with $250, and Jefferson and McNear, respectively, getting $500 and $750.

In a follow-up interview with the Citgo employee, the man told state police “McNear seemed nervous” and “kept his attention towards the tire rack.” The employee also noted when waiting on the next customer he noticed there were not any $20 bills in the cash register.

“One August 3, McNear returned to Citgo and wanted the employee to write a statement detailing that he was not in the office. The employee related McNear being at Citgo wanting him to write out a statement made him feel uncomfortable. He further related he believed McNear was trying to trap him again,” the affidavit concluded.

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