A Blakeslee man pleaded guilty in Carbon County court on Thursday to six criminal counts, including five burglaries, and is facing a big restitution bill at the time of sentencing. He was one of 11 to enter a guilty plea before Judge Joseph J. Matika.
Penn Forest Township
John Angelo Larocco, 24, pleaded to break-ins that occurred in the Penn Forest Township area of the county.
In fact, Larocco was accused for his part in a total of 18 burglaries that occurred over a period of time back in September 2011. Larocco's method of breaking into the homes was kicking in a door. Various personal items were removed from the homes.
Larocco was caught by state police at Fern Ridge when troopers responded to one of the break-ins while in progress. Larocco was found walking nearby the home that was entered carrying a bag containing items from the home. He later admitted to his involvement in the other entries.
Although he pleaded to five burglary, and one count of criminal trespass, the plea agreement calls from him making restitution for all 18 entries that were made. All the counts he pleaded to are felonies. The plea agreement also recommends a state prison term of three to six years be imposed at the time of sentencing.
Matika accepted the plea but deferred sentencing and ordered the adult probation office to prepare a presentence investigation (PSI) report which will include a restitution amount.
Larocco has been an inmate in the county prison since his arrest last September.
Other defendants who entered pleas included:
Kenneth Gerald Schwille, 60, of Drums, Luzerne County, pleaded to one count of driving under the influence (DUI). He was arrested on Jan. 11 along Delaware Avenue in Palmerton by borough police. Given a test, the result was .15 BAC.
Matika sentenced him to serve 30 days to six months in jail, a fine of $750, one year license suspension, get a drug and alcohol (D&A) evaluation and follow any recommendation for treatment, zero tolerance imposed on D&A use, and render 50 hours of community service.
The first two days of the sentence will be serve in prison with the remaining 28 in the county's Intermediate Punishment Program (IPP) with electronic monitoring.
He will begin the jail term at 10 a.m. on June 1.
Michael Robert Vannote, 26, of Allentown, pleaded to one count of simple assault. He was arrested on Jan. 28 by state police at Lehighton for an incident at the Palmerton Area Middle School in Lower Towamensing Township.
There was a basketball game going on at the school in which Vannote was a coach for one of the participating teams. He assaulted Mark Ryan Ruch, a basketball official who was working the game.
Vannote express remorse for what he did and said he had already attended and completed anger management counseling.
Matika placed him on probation for a year and ordered he make restitution to Ruch of $1,164.32, and render 50 hours of community service.
Matika told Vannote the fact he addressed his anger problem and expressed remorse to the victim at the preliminary hearing in the matter saved him from a jail term.
Scott Thomas Steffy, 47, of Tamaqua, pleaded guilty in five pending cases. He pleaded to three counts of deceptive business practices and one each of bad checks and theft by failure to make required disposition.
District Attorney Gary F. Dobias said the cases were all similar in that Steffy, who runs a home oil delivery business, accepted payments for prepaid oil but failed to make the deliveries. The victims were from East Penn and Franklin townships, and Summit Hill.
Steffy said he had paid all the victims back except for one who is owed $109.78. He said he had the money to pay that victim.
Matika said he was considering a jail term for Steffy but because the victims have been paid in full he would not send him to prison.
Matika placed him on a total of three years probation and ordered he render 150 hours of community service. On the bad check charge he was fined $300 and costs.
James Garrette Miller, 25, of Fort Meyers, Fla., and formerly of Palmerton, pleaded guilty to one count of DUI and a summary offense of no seat belt. He was arrested on Aug. 2, 2011, along Sand Quarry Road, in Lower Towamensing Township, by state police at Lehighton. Given a test, the result was .12 BAC.
Matika sentenced him to serve five days to six months in jail, a fine of $300, one year license suspension, get a D&A evaluation, zero tolerance imposed on D&A use, and render 25 hours of community service. On the seat belt violation he was fined $10 and costs.
He began the jail term immediately.
Conrad G. Wittig, 39, of Hazleton, pleaded to one count of DUI, a first offense. He was arrested on Oct. 9, 2011, along Broad St., in Beaver Meadows, by borough police. Given a test, the result was .19 BAC.
He was placed on probation for six months and ordered to pay a fine of $300, get a D&A evaluation, zero tolerance on D&A use, and render 25 hours of community service.
Kimm M. Ahner, 48, of Lehighton, pleaded to one count each of DUI, a first offense, and possession of a small amount of marijuana. She was arrested on Nov. 25, 2011, by state police at Lehighton along Canal St., in Franklin Township. Given a test, the result was .17 BAC.
On the DUI charge Matika placed her on probation for six months and ordered she pay a fine of $300, get a D&A evaluation, zero tolerance on D&A use, and render 25 hours of community service.
On the possession count she was placed on probation for a year, consecutive to the DUI charge.
Melissa Lynn Howard, 30, of Palmerton, pleaded to one county of DUI. She was arrested on Nov. 20, 2011, by state police at Lehighton following an accident along Harrity Road, in Parryville. Given a test, the result was .24 BAC.
She was sentenced to serve 48 hours to six months in jail, a fine of $500, one year license suspension, get a D&A evaluation, and render 25 hours of community service.
She will serve the sentence one day at a time, May 30 and June 6, starting at 10 p.m. each day.
Russell Oliver Breiner Jr., 38, of Palmerton, pleaded to one count of DUI, a first offense. He was arrested on Nov. 13, 2011, by state police at Lehighton at Delaware Avenue and Forest Inn Road, in Lower Towamensing Township. Given a test, the result was .16 BAC.
Matika placed him on probation for six months and ordered he pay a fine of $300, get a D&A evaluation, and render 25 hours of community service.
Ryan Sean Cebrosky, 20, of Allentown, pleaded to one count each of theft and receiving stolen property. He was arrested by Palmerton police for removing various jewelry and other items from the home of his father, Glenn Cebrosky, on or about March 1, 2011.
Cebrosky was placed on probation for a year on the charges and ordered to make restitution of $19 to J&J Coins store, and render 50 hours of community service.
Cebrosky is currently serving a prison term in Lehigh County for a probation violation.
Joshua S. Polcinik, 24, of Lehighton, pleaded to one count of criminal trespass. He was arrested on April 29, 2011, by state police at Lehighton, in connection with a burglary at the residence of Jennifer Solt, of Main St., Parryville. A television was taken. Polcinik was one of two arrested for the entry.
Matika placed him on probation for a year and ordered he make restitution of $750 for the TV, which is half the value with the co-defendant paying the other half, supply a DNA sample and pay the $250 fee, and render 50 hours of community service.
Leonard Usalis Sr., 51, of Tamaqua, was sentenced on a DUI count. He previously entered a guilty plea to the charge. He was arrested on July 5, 2010, along Blakeslee Blvd., in Lehighton, after being involved in an accident. A test showed the presence of a controlled substance in his system.
Matika sentenced him to serve 72 hours to six months in jail, a fine of $1,000, one year license suspension, get a D&A evaluation, continue drug treatment, make restitution for damages in the crash of $2,130.44, zero tolerance on D&A use, and render 25 hours of community service.
He was given credit for eight days spent in a inpatient rehab program against the jail term, and was immediately paroled.
All those sentenced must also pay court costs, which average close to $1,000, and a $50 per month supervision fee while on probation or parole.