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New Kensington gun heist likely leads to federal court for six suspects

Six people will likely face federal charges related to a major gun store burglary in New Kensington last month.

Two of the five -- Brian Keith Wade Jr., 31, and Jeremy Jerome Jackson, 21, both of Gallion Avenue, Pittsburgh, and previously New Kensington -- are facing charges for receiving some of the guns stolen Dec. 14 from Jolar's Armory.

Wade is accused of having firearms despite being a felon, wearing body armor during a crime, and receiving stolen property.

Jackson is charged with receiving property and having illegal body armor.

According to an affidavit, federal Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives agents and state police found some of the stolen guns in the trunk of Wade's car parked near his house.

Among the cache of rifles: two .223-caliber military-style semi-automatic rifles; a .9-millimeter Kel-Tec semiautomatic carbine; a .40-caliber High Point semiautomatic carbine; and a Mossburg .22-caliber semiautomatic rifle.

A ballistic vest also was found in the trunk, according to the ATF.

Wade and Jackson are being held in lieu of $500,000 bond each.

Wade's attorney, Duke George, said Thursday he has been told work is under way to transfer Wade and Jackson from the Allegheny County Jail in Pittsburgh to the Westmoreland County Jail so they can face charges in New Kensington.

George called the $500,000 bond "obscene."

Also on Wednesday, the three men charged with breaking into Jolar Armory and taking the guns waived charges to court because they were told federal charges are pending against them.

Also, Matthew Todd Lasko Jr., 17, of the 600 block of Catalpa Street, New Kensington, remains in the Westmoreland County jail for allegedly having obtained two of the stolen rifles.

Lasko had been out on $75,000 bond for attempted homicide in another case. But his bond was revoked Dec. 22 after he was charged as a juvenile in possession of a gun and other charges connected to the Jolar break-in.

In October, police charged Lasko as an adult with attempted homicide and other charges in connection with a drive-by shooting that wounded Derone "Day Day" Lewis, 19, of New Kensington.

Hearing marked by legal maneuvering

Three men arrested for allegedly stealing guns from a New Kensington gun store anticipate being charged in federal court.

On Thursday, attorneys for the men said their clients waived state burglary and other charges with the understanding with a prosecutor that if federal charges aren't filed, then the cases will be sent back to District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr. in New Kensington for a preliminary hearing.

The three suspects -- Daniel T. Johnson Jr., 19, and Nicholas Cox, 18, of separate addresses in the 1300 block of Kenneth Avenue, New Kensington and Aaron Booker, 18, of Third Avenue, New Kensington -- didn't comment as they were led into Pallone's office by Westmoreland County deputy sheriffs.

In addition to state burglary charges, the three are charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, theft and receiving stolen property.

At a brief hearing, Johnson's attorney, Duke George, said Johnson waived charges because of the impending federal charges.

Cox and Booker also waived charges to Westmoreland County Court. But they remained in a prisoner holding cell during the hearing, rather than appearing in the courtroom.

Instead, their court-appointed attorneys walked back and forth between the cell and the courtroom to talk to the suspects and prosecutors.

The attorneys declined to comment except to confirm that they have the same agreement with the prosecutor.

George asked the District Judge Pallone to reduce Johnson's $250,000 cash bond, but Assistant District Attorney Larry Koenig opposed the request. Koenig said drug sales charges will be filed soon against Johnson by state police.

Pallone refused to reduce the bond.

Cox and Booker also remain in the county jail in lieu of $250,000 bond.

In Pittsburgh, acting U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar said prosecutors are working with the ATF and local officers to decide if the cases should be prosecuted federally.

"A federal firearms licensed store case is very important to us, and it usually merits prosecution (in federal court)," Cessar said.

Additional Information:

Hearing marked by legal maneuvering

Three men arrested for allegedly stealing guns from a New Kensington gun store anticipate being charged in federal court.

On Thursday, attorneys for the men said their clients waived state burglary and other charges with the understanding with a prosecutor that if federal charges aren't filed, then the cases will be sent back to District Judge Frank J. Pallone Jr. in New Kensington for a preliminary hearing.

The three suspects -- Daniel T. Johnson Jr., 19, and Nicholas Cox, 18, of separate addresses in the 1300 block of Kenneth Avenue, New Kensington and Aaron Booker, 18, of Third Avenue, New Kensington -- didn't comment as they were led into Pallone's office by Westmoreland County deputy sheriffs.

In addition to state burglary charges, the three are charged with conspiracy to commit burglary, theft and receiving stolen property.

At a brief hearing, Johnson's attorney, Duke George, said Johnson waived charges because of the impending federal charges.

Cox and Booker also waived charges to Westmoreland County Court. But they remained in a prisoner holding cell during the hearing, rather than appearing in the courtroom.

Instead, their court-appointed attorneys walked back and forth between the cell and the courtroom to talk to the suspects and prosecutors.

The attorneys declined to comment except to confirm that they have the same agreement with the prosecutor.

George asked the District Judge Pallone to reduce Johnson's $250,000 cash bond, but Assistant District Attorney Larry Koenig opposed the request. Koenig said drug sales charges will be filed soon against Johnson by state police.

Pallone refused to reduce the bond.

Cox and Booker also remain in the county jail in lieu of $250,000 bond.

In Pittsburgh, acting U.S. Attorney Robert Cessar said prosecutors are working with the ATF and local officers to decide if the cases should be prosecuted federally.

'A federal firearms licensed store case is very important to us, and it usually merits prosecution (in federal court),' Cessar said.

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