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Indiana County man charged with 42 counts of theft from a motor vehicle

Jacob Tierney
| Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017, 12:30 p.m.

An Indiana County man is charged with stealing from dozens of vehicles in White Township over the course of six months, taking cash, electronics and eight guns.

Robert Dale Bender, 28, would frequently leave home on a bicycle for what he called “car shopping,” an acquaintance told state police in Indiana, according to court records.

Bender would return home with money, laptops, pocket knives, binoculars, medications, bicycles and electronics, court records said.

His acquaintance told police Bender would usually sell the stolen items for drug money. On several occasions, he traded a gun for a brick of heroin, which he would then sell, according to court records.

The spree started in April, shortly after Bender was released from Indiana County Prison, where he had been serving several concurrent terms for earlier thefts.

Over time, police received reports from numerous witnesses of a man matching Bender's description entering unlocked vehicles.

In August, security footage from an apartment complex showed a man matching Bender's description on a bicycle on a night when items were stolen from several nearby cars.

He showed up again in security footage from another complex the next month, and shortly after was seen on camera entering a Sheetz gas station.

Troopers were able to identify Bender from the footage. They knew him from previous thefts, according to court records.

Bender was arrested Sept. 8. He told police he had stolen from so many cars that he would never be able to identify them all, but he only entered unlocked cars and never damaged the vehicles, according to court records.

He was charged Monday with 42 counts of theft from a motor vehicle. Most of the charges are misdemeanors. Eight charges are felonies because of the gun thefts.

Bender is in Indiana County Prison. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Dec. 18.

Jacob Tierney is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-836-6646, jtierney@tribweb.com or via Twitter @Soolseem.

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