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North Huntingdon teen faces charges in burglaries

| Saturday, June 16, 2012, 10:52 p.m.

A North Huntingdon woman who sold a sob story to a Greensburg pawn shop owner while allegedly selling more than $2,000 in stolen jewelry is facing charges in connection with a burglary spree in the township earlier this month.

Leah Sue Rae, 19, of 14500 Route 30, was charged with receiving stolen property and released on $25,000 unsecured bail. She faces a preliminary hearing before District Judge Douglas Weimer.

According to the criminal complaint, a Mickanin Road resident called North Huntingdon police March 4 to report her home had been burglarized and her jewelry was missing. Township police were in the midst of a joint investigation with state police, along with police departments in Penn Township and White Oak in Allegheny County, regarding a string of daylight burglaries between February and early March.

Township police said they learned the North Huntingdon resident's jewelry allegedly had been sold to the Pawn and Jewelry Exchange on Pittsburgh Street in Greensburg at 5:13 p.m. on March 4.

The owner of the stolen merchandise was able to identify six missing gold rings, a charm, earrings, and three necklaces and bracelets, police said.

Shop owner Matthew Ralston said Tuesday that he has had the Greensburg store for two years, but has been in the exchange business for 15 years, so he is very meticulous when dealing with clients. However, Rae offered a very convincing story that softened his usual guarded nature.

"My store is not the stereotypical seedy type of place. I have several security cameras inside and outside, and it is very well-lit. I require government-issued identification from those selling items. We even scan the ID into our computers so we have a photo of the seller on file. We work very closely with law enforcement and always make our information available to them for an investigation," he said.

"Leah Rae came into the store looking a little distraught and I asked her what was wrong. She said she was pregnant and asked to use the restroom. We normally do not allow anyone to use it, but I felt bad for her. She handed me a large bag of jewelry and told me her mother had died of cancer recently and she was selling her jewelry because she was to be a legal guardian for her younger brother," he said.

Ralston said he even gave Rae more cash than he would have because her story was so convincing.

"I never get 'took' because I have been doing this so long. But she got me hook, line and sinker," he said.

On March 5, North Huntingdon police issued a warning to residents to be aware of suspicious activity after seven burglaries were reported in remote areas of the township. In each case, the burglars knocked on the doors of home to determine if anyone was home before attempting to break in. Police indicated white males were seen knocking on doors and asking for a fictitious person if a resident was home.

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