October 26, 2001
FROM NEWS ITEM

THEFT RING BUSTED   - PICS OF THE ACCUSED - HISTORY OF JONES HARDWARE -

COAL TOWNSHIP Seven local men, including four former employees of Jones Home Center on Route 61, have been charged by township police for allegedly stealing approximately $350,000 worth of materials from the home center over a three-year period.

Three of the suspects, including Richard Weikel, 47, of North Second Street, Shamokin, Raymond L. Bowers, 51, of Shamokin RD 1, and Donald Weidow, 37, of Columbia Avenue, Atlas, have been charged by Detective William Carpenter with felony offenses of theft by unlawful taking, criminal conspiracy and receiving stolen property due to the monetary value of the stolen materials.

Police claim Weikel, a former employee at Jones Home Center, orchestrated the scheme by giving free materials to several of the other defendants. He was aided in the alleged crimes by three other former employees, who are accused of giving away materials to people and stealing items for themselves.  Also charged by Carpenter with theft, receiving stolen property and criminal conspiracy were Robert Kehler, 44, of West Nelson Street, Coal Township, Robert L. Ecker Jr., 47, of East Sixth Street, Mount Carmel, Calvin Adams (known as CJ), of West Railroad Street, Mount Carmel, and Charles V. Gratti, 30, of Scott Street, Kulpmont.

Ecker, Calvin Adams (known as CJ), and Gratti also were employees at the Coal Township home improvement store when the crimes were committed, but, like Weikel, all have since been fired, police said. Carpenter said additional charges are pending in the case.

Weikel, Bowers and Weidow turned themselves into authorities Thursday and were arraigned by District Justice John Gembic III of Shamokin before being released on $15,000 unsecured bail. Kehler, Ecker, Calvin Adams (known as CJ) and Gratti, who were all charged with misdemeanor offenses, were issued a summons notifying them of their arrests.  According to a criminal complaint, Weikel was employed at Jones Home Center for about six years prior to October 2001. Police said Weikel, whose primary duty was loading materials for customers in the material yard, was suspected of taking building materials from the home center when confronted in October 2001 by Robert Jones, owner of the business. Police said Weikel admitted to giving home center property to friends and others while taking a few dollars from them.

Jones reported over $150,000 was missing from his inventory from 1999 to 2001. Police said Weikel admitted to loading materials onto vehicles for friends in 1999 and taking a few dollars from them for the materials. Weikel said other people became involved in the scheme until the number increased to more than 20. Police said Weikel accepted small cash payments, beer, cigars and other items as payment for the materials he gave to people. Weikel estimated that he gave away and received gifts for about $250,000 in Jones Home Center property over a three-year period (January 1999 through October 2001), police said.  Weikel allegedly told police that Gratti, Ecker, and Calvin Adams (known as CJ), also were involved in the thefts.  Court records state that Bowers received approximately $7,000 worth of building materials from Weikel, including plywood, lumber, siding, insulation and shingles in exchange for a few dollars. Police said the crimes involving Bowers  were committed from January through October 2001.  Weidow is charged with receiving building materials worth $3,000 from Weikel from January 2000 through September 2001.

Kehler is accused of receiving approximately $1,000 worth of building supplies, including siding, soffit, rain gutter and a storm door from Weikel from January 2000 through October 2001.  Police said Ecker received approximately $300 worth of treated lumber that was delivered to his home by Calvin Adams (known as CJ) and Gratti in September 2001. Ecker also is accused of taking tape measures, water filters and box cutters from the home center.

In addition to delivering the stolen building supplies to Ecker, Calvin Adams (known as CJ) is charged with stealing $718 worth of building materials including plywood, spruce lumber, siding, felt paper, treated lumber and deck boards from the store, while Gratti is accused of stealing a faucet.

Police said the crimes committed by a person who requested not to be identified occurred from May through October 2001. The offenses involving Gratti occurred between Aug. 1 and Oct. 26, 2001, police said.


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