A Lansford councilman faces charges of receiving stolen property after allegedly buying two firearms that had been taken in a burglary in the borough.
Andrew M. Snyder, 43, of 28 Cortright St., was charged on Sept. 1 by state police at Lehighton where he had been stationed as a state trooper with two counts of receiving stolen property and firearm ownership-duty of other persons. He was released on $2,000 unsecured bail.
Snyder, a former state trooper, was appointed in July 2010 to fill a council seat vacated by Robert Hackash. He had his preliminary arraignment on Tuesday and a preliminary hearing is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sept. 14.
Contacted at his home on Friday, Snyder said he believes the charges are a reprisal.
"There is no doubt in my mind that this is a retaliatory thing for my being on council," he said. Snyder alluded to matters "going on behind the scenes" which he could not discuss.
He believed the purchases were aboveboard and legal.
"I purchased the guns through a friend of a friend in good faith and believed they were legal," he said. When the woman from whom he bought the guns twice failed to show up at a local gun shop to legally transfer the firearms, he said he contacted borough police "to see if there was an issue with the guns."
Police told him the guns had been stolen, and he immediately arranged to turn in the guns.
"I didn't buy them out of the trunk of somebody's car, knowing they were stolen," Snyder said. "The moment I realized there was an issue with them, I contacted police. I did everything to the letter of the law."
According to an affidavit of probable cause filed by arresting officer Nicholas A. De La Inglesia, here's what happened:
A Lansford man, John Mansky, reported to Lansford police that two firearms were stolen from his home between July 11 and July 14.
Jessica Ensel, of 717 E. Patterson St., Lansford, came into possession of the guns and contacted Joseph Schminkey, also of Lansford, that she was looking to sell them.
Schminkey, according to the affidavit, referred Snyder to Ensel to buy the guns.
On July 15 Schminkey and Snyder went to the home of Ensel's associate, Herbert Hernandez, of 342 W. Kline Ave. next door to Mansky where the guns were being kept and were sold to Snyder.
Hernandez, the affidavit notes, has a felony conviction of robbery, making it illegal for him to possess firearms.
Snyder bought the guns, a Taurus revolver .357 Magnum and a Dan Wesson revolver .44 Magnum, from Ensel for a total of $600. The guns are valued at $1,200 total, the affidavit states. The Dan Wesson revolver also had an Aimpoint 1000 scope mounted on it, which would increase its value.
Lansford police were investigating another theft in which Schminkey was the victim. During a July 25 interview with Det. Jack Soberick, Schminkey said that Ensel was trying to sell firearms "which could not be registered" and that his friend did not purchase them.
The next day, on July 26, Schminkey contacted Soberick and informed him that he could get the stolen guns for him.
That same day, Snyder contacted Soberick and told him he had the guns. He arranged to turn them in, given that they were stolen property. At 11:40 p.m. that day, De La Inglesia met with Snyder at the Lansford police station. Snyder surrendered the guns and said he would tell police how he had gotten them.
Cpl. William Gross and Inglesia interviewed Snyder, who told them he bought the guns from "a female named Jessica" on July 15. He said he wasn't sure of her last name, and referenced his cell phone for her last name and phone number, which he gave to the officers. He admitted to having bought the guns from her at Hernandez' home, and that Hernandez was present.
Snyder said the sale occurred without a legal transfer of the firearms. He said Ensel was supposed to meet him the next day for a transfer at a local gun shop, but did not show. Snyder said they rescheduled, but she failed to show for that time, too.
Snyder admitted that he knew it was not legal to sell or transfer firearms in this manner.
Gross and De La Inglesia interviewed Schminkey, who told them he had referred Snyder to Ensel to buy the guns, but claimed he did not know they were stolen. Schminkey confirmed the date and place of the sale, and those present.
The affidavit notes that Snyder was in law enforcement for more than 10 years, and that he would have been trained and tested on the crimes code concerning firearms transfers. Further, Snyder currently holds a valid "curio and relic" federal firearms license, further showing his familiarity with properly documenting purchases and transfers of firearms. he owns several legally registered firearms, again showing his familiarity with the requirements of purchasing, selling and transferring them. Further, the affidavit states, Snyder describes himself as an avid collector of firearms.
Neither Snyder nor Ensel are firearms licensed importers, manufacturers or dealers. This sale was not completed at a properly registered facility, the firearms were stolen and were sold at approximately half their actual valued price.
Police also interviewed Ensel, who denied having or selling the guns. She said she knows Hernandez and is friends with his daughter. Ensel halted the interview and left the state police barracks after being told she was being deceptive.
Police attempted to contact Hernandez, to no avail.
Ensel faces the same charges as Snyder.