WESTMORELAND COUNTY, Pa. — Seven men are behind bars after police say they stole thousands of dollars in cash, jewelry, and other belongings from truck drivers and rest stop visitors along the Pennsylvania Turnpike and Interstate 70.
They were arrested at three locations across Westmoreland County on Wednesday.
“Well, I mean, like I said, it’s shocking but not shocking,” said Alexandra Briseno, a driver from Virginia who made a stop at the New Stanton rest stop, where one of the traffic stops was made. “I guess people have to be more diligent about their surroundings. You can’t take anything for granted.”
According to court documents, Pennsylvania State Police believe the robberies started at the welcome center on I-70 in Donegal around 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. There, they said a man from Canada was robbed of nearly $200 in U.S. currency, and between $200 to $400 Canadian dollars.
About an hour later, police say the men stopped at the Flying J in South Huntingdon.
There, police say the men claimed a trucker had won $50,000 on the lottery and was giving out cash.
They promised to double the victim’s money in their wallets and the value of their rings.
Instead, police say they ran with more than $300 and 11 rings valued at $42,000.
Then, police say the men pulled the lottery scheme again at the South Somerset service plaza, stealing $1,000 in cash and another $24,000 in rings, and ripped a necklace from a woman’s neck.
An alert was issued after they were spotted near Harrisburg on Wednesday.
Troopers on the turnpike spotted three cars believed to be connected to the robberies following one another on the turnpike and were able to pull them over shortly after at three different stops in Westmoreland County, including the New Stanton rest stop on the turnpike, the Hempfield exit on the Turnpike, and on Route 30.
Robert Murphy, Adam Smith, Robert Chandler, Danny Williams, John Black, Darrell Noel and Wendell Compton are all behind bars in Westmoreland County being held without bond.
Court documents say before asking for a lawyer, Noel told police this wasn’t robbery, instead saying the men were ‘gambling.’
“It’s pretty scary,” said Arian Brooks, a truck driver from New York City who made a quick stop in New Stanton on Thursday afternoon.
He said he’s thankful these men were arrested rather quickly.
“Just got to be alert of everywhere we go now,” Brooks said. “We’re in some rough times, a lot of people are not working, not willing to work, we’ve just got to be aware of everything.”
All seven men are facing multiple charges. They’re due in court on May 1.
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