Judge rejects deal in metal theft case
A Fayette County man who on Monday expected to be sentenced to house arrest in connection with the theft of $600,000 worth of stainless steel from his former employer may instead have to go to trial.
Judge Nancy Vernon rejected the plea deal that had been offered to Robert Showman, 35, of Uniontown and ordered that his case be placed back on the trial list when the man's former boss and two of the company's employees said house arrest was too lenient.
“I don't believe the penalty fits the crime,” Vernon said. “This man was in a trusted position. He could have demolished the entire company and caused them to go bankrupt. Simply giving him house arrest is a slap on the wrist.”
State police said Showman and three other former employees of Hranec Sheet Metal Inc. in German Township stole $600,000 worth of new, coiled stainless steel between June 29, 2009, and May 9, 2011. According to a criminal complaint, the men sold the steel to a scrap yard, Metalico Brownsville of Jefferson Township, formerly known as Assad Iron and Metal.
In the complaint, police said the men devised a scheme in which one of them ordered full coils of 24- and 26-gauge stainless steel from Hranec's Warminster-based supplier, Spectrum Metals. Once the coils were delivered, one of the men would wait until nightfall to load them onto a truck so they could be sold for scrap the next day, police said.
Hranec unraveled the scheme in 2011, when he realized the company was losing money, police said.
Two of the men, Timothy J. Devince, 27, of Uniontown and Timothy R. Smouse, 27, of Greensburg entered guilty pleas to theft and conspiracy. Each was ordered to pay restitution and was sentenced to 23 months of intermediate punishment and house arrest.
Showman and Kenney Keener, 31, of Ruffsdale entered guilty pleas to the same charges. Keener is to be sentenced on Jan. 3.
Showman expected to receive a sentence similar to the ones given to Devince and Smouse, until Hranec and two of his employees testified that house arrest was not a harsh enough sentence for him.
Hranec said Showman was a 12-year, trusted employee who earned more than $70,000 annually. Showman's duties as shop foreman included supervising the other three defendants, he said.
“Mr. Showman should have been the very last person involved in this crime and the very first to stop it,” Hranec said.
Hranec said Showman continued to work for the company after police initiated an investigation. He attended meetings with police and steered investigators toward a supplier as the possible source of the missing steel, Hranec said.
“Mr. Showman sent us on a wild goose chase to Philadelphia, costing us thousands of dollars, as if $600,000 was not enough,” Hranec said.
Mike Sylvester, a department manager, said the thefts nearly bankrupted the company, jeopardizing 100 jobs. Sylvester said the company still owes $250,000 to the supplier of the stolen steel.
Employee Josh Tressler questioned house arrest as punishment for the theft of more than a half-million dollars in steel.
“I feel he should get the maximum sentence,” Tressler testified. “If everyone in this courtroom could get away with stealing a half-million dollars and only get house arrest, everyone would do it.”
District Attorney Jack Heneks said that after meeting with Hranec a number of times, he believed Hranec was in agreement with house arrest for all the defendants. He said he learned only recently that Hranec held Showman more accountable for the thefts than he did the others.
“It is a surprise to me ... of all of a sudden, Mr. Showman became the focus,” Heneks said.
Showman did not address the court. His attorney, David Kaiser of Uniontown, said Showman's role consisted of “keeping quiet for some money” but that he was remorseful.
A new trial date was not immediately set. Showman is free on $10,000 unsecured bond.
Liz Zemba is a reporter for Trib Total Media. She can be reached at 412-601-2166 or email@example.com.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com 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.
- Traveling amateur organists entertain fellow seniors with oldies music
- Westmoreland County municipalities push to clean up litter, dumps
- ‘Doc Hope’ eases into retirement from West Newton veterinary clinic
- Route 217 bridge work about to start in Derry Borough
- Spirit Airlines lifts fortunes of Arnold Palmer Regional Airport
- 2 Hempfield Area students charged with sexting
- Murrysville woman apologizes for scholarship fund theft
- Donors’ generosity allows Clairview School girls to get fancy for prom
- Hempfield man dies in single-vehicle accident
- Land costs for New Stanton turnpike interchange project reach $4.2M
- Seton Hill student tells how Pa. Gov. Wolf’s tax plan will hurt her