ShareThis Page

Monessen man charged in 2 burglaries at Salvation Army

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

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.