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Police suspect 3 Westmoreland pharmacy robberies linked

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Friday, Jan. 4, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
 

State police at Greensburg suspect the same person is responsible for three robberies over the past 2 12 months at Rite Aid pharmacies in Hempfield and East Huntingdon.

The most recent robbery occurred at 4:50 p.m. Dec. 23 at the pharmacy off Route 819 in Countryside Plaza in East Huntingdon.

“The operation is the same in each case. A man wearing an oversized hood or a scarf covering his face walks in, passes right by the cash registers and goes right back to the pharmacy and passes a note to a pharmacist demanding the 15- and 30-milligram pills of Oxycodone,” Trooper Steve Limani said.

Although the suspect has not shown a weapon, “he does threaten harm to people in each case,” Limani said.

In the most recent case, the man with a thin build and approximately 6 feet tall wore a light-colored Penguins sweatshirt with the hood up, covering his face, and had heavy gloves on. Police said he grabbed a shopping cart when he entered the store and moved toward the back.

“In this case, a couple of days before Christmas, the note he passed said he didn't want anyone to have a bad Christmas,” Limani said.

“The man was given an unspecified number of pills, he walked out of the store through the parking lot toward the McDonald's. No one saw what kind of an automobile he may have entered,” Limani said.

On Dec. 6, a man passed a note to rob the Hempfield Rite Aid and fled with six bottles of prescription pain medication.

In that case, the suspect was described as a 5-foot 9-inch white male in his late 20s. He walked into the drugstore wearing a white knit band around his face and an oversized hooded sweatshirt, Limani said.

The thinly built man handed a pharmacy technician a note with the words, “Stay calm and be quiet” and told her to give the note to the pharmacist, police said. That note demanded all of the pharmacy‘s 15-and 30-milligram Oxycodone and stated that he had a gun and would “hurt you all.” As the technician was reading the note, the suspect repeatedly told the employee to “be quiet and hurry up.”

The pharmacist put six bottles of pain pills in a Rite Aid bag, gave it to the robber, who then demanded the pharmacist return his note.

Rite Aid offered a $2,500 reward for the arrest and conviction of the person responsible and Limani said the reward is still valid.

Police believe the same man passed a note demanding the East Huntingdon store's Oxycodone pills on Oct. 24.

Limani did not speculate whether the suspect may be ingesting the pain medications or selling them.

“I think he could get about $40 for each 30-milligram pill around here,” Limani said.

“I would recommend anyone working in a pharmacy who may see a person come in with something covering their face immediately approach that person and demand they remove the items covering their face,” Limani said.

“Here, based on the MO, there is a good chance it is the same person involved,” Limani said.

Anyone with information is asked to contact police at 724-832-3288.

Paul Peirce is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-850-2860 or ppeirce@tribweb.com.

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