Pitcairn police hope arrests halt string of five burglaries

| Wednesday, Dec. 25, 2013, 9:00 p.m.

Pitcairn police hope that a recent arrest put an end to a string of burglaries in the area.

Jesse Richard, 28, of Horizon View Drive in Penn Hills, was charged in connection with a burglary reported Nov. 16 on Robinson Street. The resident told police that more than $15,000 worth of jewelry was stolen from the house when no one was at home.

Police also charged Richard's girlfriend, Heather Begley, with conspiracy to commit burglary. Police accused Begley of selling some of the stolen jewelry at a local gold buyer.

After making calls to gold buyers in the area, Pitcairn officer Louis Cuccaro said, police found that Richard and Begley were regular customers in recent weeks.

They are accused of receiving about $4,000 from Treasure Hunt in Irwin and Atlantic Gold Exchange in Monroeville for jewelry reported missing from the house. There was additional jewelry the couple sold at a local gold dealer that the Nov. 16 victim could not identify, according to the criminal complaint.

Five burglaries were reported last month in Pitcairn that involved empty houses and stolen jewelry.

None have been reported since Richard was arrested, Farally said. As of Monday, police were investigating a possible connection to the other burglaries, Farally said.

Richard waived a preliminary hearing last week on charges of burglary, theft, receiving stolen property and conspiracy in connection with the Nov. 16 incident. Charges of criminal trespass and disorderly conduct were withdrawn.

County detectives initially were called out to investigate the burglary because of the value of the jewelry that was reported stolen, but they let Pitcairn police take the lead, said Farally, who commended Cuccaro for going beyond his duties as a Pitcairn officer.

“These guys are taking a lot of initiative, they're getting the job done,” Farally said.

Richard and Begley recently moved out of Pitcairn, where police had multiple “interactions” with Richard, according to the criminal complaint.

The Allegheny County public defender who represented Richard could not be reached for comment.

Burglars in Pitcairn and Monroeville over the last few years have targeted empty homes and valuable jewelry, which can be exchanged for cash at one of the many gold buyers and pawn shops in the area.

However, pawning jewelry at those stores could lead police to the thieves. Gold buyers are required by state law to validate a customer's state identification card and log the person's name so it is available if police request help in an investigation, Farally said.

An employee at Atlantic Gold Exchange in Monroeville who declined to give a name — per company policy — said Friday that while the business cooperates fully with all police investigations, employees have to be cautious about what might appear to be suspicious behavior.

Kyle Lawson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-856-7400, ext. 8755, or klawson@tribweb.com.

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