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Monessen man charged in 2 burglaries at Salvation Army

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 12:21 a.m.
Jim Ference | The Valley Independent
The Salvation Army Mon Valley Citadell in Monessen at 308 Schoonmaker Ave. on Tuesday March, 25, 2014.

A Monessen man was accused Tuesday of stealing cash and computers from the Salvation Army during two break-ins last month.

Lael Brown, 31, of 1111 Reservoir Ave. is charged with two counts each of burglary, theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and criminal mischief – tamper with property.

Brown allegedly entered the Salvation Army Mon Valley Citadel at 308 Schoonmaker Ave. on Feb. 11 through an unlocked door and took $320 in paper currency and $77 in change.

On Feb. 23, Brown crawled through an unsecured basement window and took two laptop computers valued at $500 apiece before trading the computers for drugs, Monessen police Lt. Carl Fronzaglio said.

In the latter burglary, Brown activated a security alarm and knocked the alarm keypad off the wall, according to an affidavit of probable cause filed Tuesday with Magisterial District Judge Joseph Dalfonso in Monessen.

The alarm continued going off, so Brown panicked and ran up to a third-floor room where he hid for five minutes before dashing down to the basement and escaping out the window he used to enter the building, police said.

According to police, Salvation Army Lt. Sue Thwaite initially suspected a former intern had committed the thefts.

Monessen police conducted a month-long investigation that involved gathering various items for possible fingerprints and questioning multiple sources.

On March 7, a witness told police she saw two laptop computers while at Brown's residence on Feb. 23.

Fronzaglio said Brown contacted him via phone on March 22 and said he “wanted to tell me the truth and that he stole the laptops.”

Police said Brown willingly provided a written statement in which he confessed to the crimes.

Brown allegedly told police that he committed both burglaries while “looking for money to buy dope.” Police claim Brown traded the laptops for a half bundle of heroin.

One bundle of heroin equals 10 stamp bags or individual doses.

He is awaiting a preliminary hearing on felony charges of theft by unlawful taking, receiving stolen property and conspiracy stemming from an alleged incident earlier this year in Monessen.

Brown has not been arraigned on the Salvation Army charges because he is hospitalized at an unspecified location, police Chief John Mandarino said.

Rick Bruni Jr. is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at or 724-684-2635.