All charges against seven men accused last month of scamming thousands of dollars from customers at four rest stops in Pennsylvania – including the welcome center on Interstate 70 in Washington County – are being consolidated into a single case in Westmoreland County.
The seven men, all of whom are from out of state, were arrested by police at multiple locations April 19 after numerous motorists called authorities on back-to-back days to report they were bilked out of money and jewelry by grifters who allegedly robbed the victims after making far-fetched claims about sharing their wealth.
In addition to the Pennsylvania Welcome Center in Donegal Township, state police investigated additional scams at a truck stop along I-70 near Smithton in Westmoreland County, at a travel plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike in Somerset County and at a rest stop on Interstate 81 in Dauphin County.
A preliminary hearing for the case in Washington County was scheduled for Monday morning before District Judge John Bruner, but all charges against the men were withdrawn so they can eventually be consolidated with the cases filed in Westmoreland County.
Deputy Attorney General Patrick Schulte, who is handling the prosecution of the cases, said the charges were withdrawn in Washington, Somerset and Dauphin counties so the charges can be tried through the single case in Westmoreland County.
“While it’s technically a withdrawal, it will be added to the incident in Westmoreland County,” Schulte said in a phone interview Tuesday.
The men facing charges are Darrell Marshall Noel III, 38, Robert Thomas Chandler, 44, Adam Smith, 38, Danny Williams, 48, John Henry Black, 38, and Robert Dennis Murphy, 70, all of whom are from Cincinnati, along with Wendell Compton, 54, of Knoxville, Tenn. They face numerous felony and misdemeanors counts, including robbery, theft and receiving stolen property, among other charges.
“All four cases are essentially being consolidated, and the mechanical way we have to do that is withdraw them … and they will be listed on that docket (in the Westmoreland Court County Court of Common Pleas),” Schulte said. “While they’re temporarily withdrawn, they are not gone forever. They will be reappear in (a consolidated) docket.”
The men are accused of going in small groups on April 18 and 19 to the various rest stops, where they told unsuspecting motorists that they had extra money they were willing to give away, police said. In some cases, they told the victims that if they pulled out their wallet, they would give them double the amount of cash. However, the suspects stole the cash or, in some cases, took jewelry from the victims, according to court documents.
The men were eventually tracked down by police and arrested at multiple locations in Westmoreland County. Police said all of the vehicles had radio equipment to help the men communicate with each other.
All of the defendants waived their cases to court in Westmoreland County during preliminary hearings before District Judge Charles Christner on May 15, according to online court records. Schulte said he expects the cases to be consolidated in Westmoreland County by next month. The seven men are all being held without bond at the Westmoreland County jail.
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