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Man charged with falsely collecting money for slain policemen's fund

| Tuesday, April 28, 2009

A man dressed as a volunteer firefighter was arrested for fraudulently soliciting donations to benefit the families of three slain Pittsburgh police officers.

Michael Howard Stebler, 26, no address available, is charged with theft and false impersonation. Police said he went door to door in Brighton Heights on Friday and Saturday, collecting cash and checks that he said would go toward the Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund.

No one is authorized to collect for the fund, police spokeswoman Diane Richard said. It was created to collect donations by mail for the families of the officers killed during an April 4 domestic disturbance in Stanton Heights.

A Zone 1 sergeant spotted Stebler, carrying a police radio and firefighter's boot, on Saturday night and questioned him, Richard said.

Stebler said he was a volunteer firefighter and authorized by a Ross Township volunteer fire company to collect donations, Richard said, but Ross fire officials said Stebler hasn't been a firefighter for more than a year and was not authorized to collect money.

When he was arrested, Stebler had about $100 in cash and a check for $15 written to the fund, police said.

Anyone who thinks they donated money to Stebler should call Sgt. Joseph Gannon or Sgt. Patrick Knepp at the Zone 1 police station at 412-323-7201.

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