CRANBERRY TWP — The two most prolific members of an alleged multicounty shoplifting ring will head to court after preliminary hearings were held in absentia earlier this month before Magistrate Judge David Kovach.
Daniel Adam Wikert, 26, and Sarah Anne Yost, 26, both of McKees Rocks, Allegheny County, each face 17 charges, including retail theft, access device fraud, theft by deception, receiving stolen property and conspiracy to commit those crimes. They also are charged with organized retail theft.
For Yost, all charges are third-degree felonies. Wikert faces 13 felony and four first-degree misdemeanor charges.
Cranberry Township police allege Yost and Wikert organized two crime rings targeting Lowe's and Marshalls stores in Cranberry and Allegheny County. They said the two caused more than $20,000 in loss to the two companies between January and August.
Cranberry Detective Sgt. Matthew Irvin said at the hearings that the two allegedly committed these crimes “to fund their drug habit.”
According to Irvin's affidavits, the group targeting Marshalls, encompassing six people, committed 28 incidents of retail theft or fraudulent returns of stolen goods. Yost allegedly committed half of those incidents, one affidavit states, leaving the stores with about $2,500 worth of merchandise.
Members of that group then, according to one affidavit, returned those goods and other merchandise directly from the sales floor, for about $4,250 in gift cards.
At five Lowe's stores, according to Irvin, the group committed 37 incidents of theft or fraud, culminating in a total loss to the company of more than $15,000.
One affidavit states Wikert participated in 30 of those incidents, walking out with nearly $5,000 in merchandise and fraudulently returning merchandise for more than $7,300. Yost participated in seven fraudulent returns, totaling nearly $3,000, according to Irvin.
Gift cards from both stores were sold to pawnshops or online secondhand gift card businesses, the affidavits state. While both stores have policies of cataloging identification on returns without receipts, the affidavits state, the members of the rings used other people's IDs, including those of family members.
Waived for court
Three other alleged members of the rings waived their rights to a hearing and will similarly head to court.
Brian Thomas Lugin, 33, of McKees Rocks; Jamie Lynn Carnahan, 39, of Beaver; and Jared Timothy Tomochak, 34, of Aliquippa, each waived their preliminary hearings. They each face felony charges of access device fraud and conspiracy to commit access device fraud and six misdemeanor charges, including retail theft, receiving stolen property and theft by deception.
Police accuse the three defendants of aiding Yost and Wikert in their alleged thefts by returning items the two allegedly stole from various stores for gift cards.
Others who Cranberry Township police accuse of being involved in the ring are yet to be apprehended in Butler County.