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Former WCCC work-study student to stand trial in 2-year-old equipment theft

Paul Peirce
| Tuesday, Jan. 2, 2018, 1:51 p.m.

A former Westmoreland County Community College work-study student who was questioned two years ago about a missing $6,239 stage light control console is charged with theft after seeking to have the unit serviced last summer.

John M. Shollenberger, 35, of North Huntingdon was ordered to stand trial Tuesday for receiving stolen property after a preliminary hearing.

County park police Lt. Henry Fontana testified he initially investigated the theft of the unit from the college's amphitheater in September 2015 after it was discovered missing. Among the people he was directed to interview by college officials was Shollenberger because he frequently worked on stage lights for events, Fontana told Youngwood District Judge Tony Bompiani.

“At that time, Mr. Shollenberger denied any knowledge of the whereabouts of the console. He said it was a specialized component and would be nearly useless without the rest of the system,” Fontana testified under questioning from Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Dupilka.

Fontana said he placed an alert on the console with the manufacturer, Electronic Theatre Controls, identifying the item and its serial number should it ever be brought in for service.

On Aug. 21, Daniel Chujko, an area service representative for the manufacturer, notified park police Officer Benjamin Kremer that Shollenberger had taken in the stolen piece to be serviced, Fontana said.

“It was flagged, and the manufacturer notified us. Mr. Chujko returned the system to us, and it was returned to the college,” Fontana said.

Shollenberger's attorney, William McCabe of Greensburg, pleaded not guilty on his client's behalf. He said Shollenberger purchased the console secondhand and had no idea it was the stolen item.

Chujko testified at the hearing that it was Shollenberger who provided the manufacturer with the encrypted serial number on the device that enabled its identification.

Dupilka asked Chujko whether Shollenberger was surprised when he learned the item was tagged as “stolen from the community college.'

“To put it mildly ... yes,” Chujko said.

Chujko testified under cross-examination by McCabe that Shollenberger, upon learning the equipment was stolen, asked Chujko to contact the college and return it.

Chujko told Kremer that Shollenberger asked him not to tell authorities who brought in the item for service, Kremer later testified.

McCabe asked Bompiani to dismiss the complaint, noting that Shollenberger “did the exact opposite of what someone who knew the item was stolen would do.”

“He disclosed the item's serial number himself to the manufacturer, and then once he found it was stolen asked that it be returned,” McCabe said.

Dupilka countered that Shollenberger was afraid of going to police himself and had Chujko return the console.

Bompiani ruled there is sufficient evidence for Shollenberger to stand trial.

Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 724-850-2860, or via Twitter @ppeirce_trib.

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