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Four charged in Lansford burglary

Published September 28. 2012 05:02PM

Mel Gerber, 39, of 117 Lombard Street, Tamaqua; Anthony Paltanavage, 26, of 75 Water St., New Philadelphia; Matthew Stephens, of 210 Windifeld Drive, Middleport; and Shane Stoops, 23, of 189 Winfield Drive, Middleport, all face charges from an incident which took place on Sept. 8 at 8:49 p.m. at 304 E. Bertsch St., Lansford.

Charges were filed by Lansford Det./Sgt. Jack Soberick and Officer Amie Barclay.

All individuals were charged with burglary, criminal trespass, criminal conspiracy, theft by unlawful taking, and receiving stolen property.

According to an affidavit of probable cause, here's what happened:

Soberick and Barclay were investigating a burglary that had happened on or about 8:49 p.m. Sept. 8 at 304 E. Bertsch St. The owner of the home had arrived to find a large kitchen coal stove had been pulled from the corner and was now near the back door. The owner had found one of the accused, Gerber, in the rear yard. Gerber told her that he had just placed wood over a broken window in her building.

Barclay checked the area and found Gerber's vehicle. Inside were Stoops, Stephens and Paltanavage. Also in the vehicle were items identified by the property owner as having been taken from her building.

All four were taken to the police station and given their Miranda rights. All admitted to having entered the building, with Stoops and Stephens saying they were brought there to help move a heavy coal stove. However, the stove proved to be too large and heavy to move, so they were told to take a wooden cabinet/hutch to Gerber's vehicle instead.

Gerber told police he had been hired by the owner of the attached property at 306 E. Bertsch St., and claimed he had only tried to secure a damaged window at 304 E. Bertsch. However, both he and Paltanavage admitted to having been inside the building.

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