Hempfield pawn shop owner assists state troopers in Ruffs Dale burglary investigation
The owner of a Hempfield pawn shop said he was happy to lend a hand Friday to state police troopers investigating the theft of hundreds of decorative pen knives and three firearms during a burglary at a home in Ruffs Dale this week.
The suspect, Brandon J. Spallone, 22, of Jeannette was being held in the Westmoreland County Prison awaiting arraignment on multiple criminal charges including receiving stolen property after he attempted to pawn more than 100 of the knives and two rifles about 10:15 a.m. at Jake’s Haggle Hut along Route 30, according to state police at Greensburg.
“On Wednesday, a friend of mine, Mark (Thomas) of Ruffs Dale, called to tell me someone had broken into his house and stole hundreds of knives he collects and a few guns,” said the pawn shop’s owner, Jake Cunningham.
“So (Friday) morning this guy comes in with about 100 decorative pen knives, none of them appeared to be worth a whole lot, and claimed his grandfather passed away and wanted to sell them. Someone who was here with me and knew about Mark’s burglary, said after (Spallone) left, whether I thought they were Mark’s knives, and so I called Mark and described some of the knives to him and he said they were his,” Cunningham said.
Cunningham said one of the pen knives had “Mark” and “Myrtle Beach” printed on it.
According to Cunningham, Spallone told him before he left the store that he also had two rifles that his late grandfather owned that he also wanted to sell.
“So I called state police and explained that I think I knew the guy they wanted for the burglary of Mark’s stuff and the trooper told me to call the suspect back and tell him I was interested in the firearms, but stall him when he got to the store. Within five minutes troopers were here and arrested him,” Cunningham said.
Thomas said he is grateful to Cunningham and state police.
“It’s nice to get the knives back, but I’m still missing about 200 knives, a revolver and a computer tablet. But again, I’m glad they caught one of the people responsible,” Thomas said.
Thomas, 53, said he started collecting knives at county and local fairs several years ago and built a collection.
“I like to do that,” he said.
Cunningham said it’s not unusual for him to tip law enforcement.
“I try to help police whenever I can. I’ve worked six years to build up this business and I don’t want to damage that,” he said.
“But at least once a month, somebody comes in with something suspicious and I end up calling law enforcement,” Cunningham said.
“The funny thing is that a lot of these people know I do assist police, but they still come in here with stolen things once in awhile,” he said.
Spallone declined comment as he was led out of the state police barracks to be taken to the county jail to await his arraignment.
Paul Peirce is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Paul at 724-850-2860, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter .