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Bank robber with fake vibrator-bomb, Iron Man mask gets 18 to 36 months in prison

| Tuesday, May 31, 2016, 1:15 p.m.

Aaron Stein was under a lot of stress when he made a fake bomb from phone wires, duct tape and a vibrator, donned an Iron Man mask and robbed a PNC Bank branch in Crafton on June 15, he told a judge Tuesday.

Pressured by a looming wedding, child support payments and recent home repairs, Stein, 36, of Elliott secretly invested the last of his family's savings into risky foreign currencies to try to make quick money and cover the cost of his honeymoon.

So when the investment evaporated, it was more than just the immediate loss that drove him to rob a bank, Stein told Allegheny County Common Pleas Judge Anthony Mariani at his sentencing hearing Tuesday.

“My wife was not aware I'd taken the remains of our savings and put it into a risky investment, or that the savings were so depleted,” Stein told Mariani. “Because I'd been dishonest, I feared that final truth would be what destroyed my family.”

Mariani sentenced him to 18 to 36 months in state prison, followed by three years of probation.

Stein, defense attorney Bruce Carsia and Stein's family requested that Stein be sentenced to house arrest instead of prison. Mariani denied the request.

“The whole reason your client did what he did was to scare people into giving him money. This was sane, calculated decision-making,” Mariani told Carsia. “For me to tell the community that's a house-arrest case ... it can't be that simple.”

When police found Stein's car pulled over on Campbell's Run Road in nearby Robinson, he surrendered and told them his bomb was fake, but Crafton police Chief Mark Sumpter called the Allegheny County bomb squad to detonate it as a precaution. Portions of Campbell's Run Road, Interstate 79 and Interstate 376 were closed for about three hours.

Stein was released on bond 18 days after his arrest and married shortly afterward. He pleaded guilty to robbery, aggravated assault, making bomb threats, making a fake bomb and four counts of reckless endangerment.

A staffer with Jail Related Services testified that Stein was undergoing psychological treatment while under court supervision and was cooperative. Stein's wife, shaking with emotion, pleaded with Mariani to let him continue on house arrest so he could go back to work and see his son.

“I had the option to walk away from Aaron because of his crime. Most people expected me to,” said Constance Capiotis, Stein's wife and business partner. “In spite of everything I've lost, I've come to conclude that my family is worth fighting for and Aaron is worth standing by.”

Matthew Santoni is a Tribune-Review staff writer.

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