A father and son from Florida are facing multiple charges after being arrested in a series of “distraction-style” burglaries throughout the area, including Indiana and Westmorland counties, according to Attorney General Josh Shapiro.
Steve Nichols, 53, and his son, Archie Marino, 34, both of Fort Lauderdale, were indicted by a statewide investigating grand jury this summer and charges filed before District Judge William O’Donnell in Butler County, following a three-year investigation, according to court documents.
“These defendants are charged with conduct that includes seeking out seniors, distracting them, invading their home, and in some cases stealing thousands of dollars of cash and personal belongings,” Shapiro said Friday.
According to court documents, the pair would target elderly homeowner and while one of them engaged the homeowner in conversation, the other would enter the residence and stole items of value from safes or various other locations throughout the house.
Attorney general office agents said the pair would fly into a particular area and use a rental car to drive where the burglaries took place. The grand jury was told that Marino has former in-laws in the Pittsburgh area, one of whom identified him from a surveillance camera image taken at a Mount Pleasant home where he rang a doorbell during an unsuccessful attempt.
As part of the investigation, agents obtained records from car rental agencies and airlines the two used to fly into Pittsburgh International Airport to commit the thefts, as well as an October 2018 trip where thefts also occurred in Lackawanna and Lebanon counties.
According to the grand jury, the pair flew into Philadelphia International Airport and rented a vehicle there in those eastern Pennsylvania cases.
Agents also obtained cellphone data of the suspects, which confirmed they were in said areas during the dates and times the burglaries were committed.
The grand jury found that an 85-year-old woman from Blairsville was scammed out of more than $1,600 in the scheme on Nov. 9, 2018. Not more than an hour later, the pair traveled to Latrobe where a couple, ages 83 and 87, were bilked of $5,000 in cash and jewelry after a man knocked on their door to reportedly “check the home’s electrical breakers.”
Cell phone data and rental car records helped agents connect the pair to those thefts, according to the grand jury. The couple were also able to identify Marino from a photograph.
On Nov. 7, 2018, Mount Pleasant police reported an 82-year-old man sad he was also burglarized. He told police a man knocked on his door saying he was from the power company and his electricity was going to be turned off for three days. He asked to go into the basement to install a generator. According to the indictment, he said he needed to call his boss and abruptly left. Later, the victim found a safe in his bedroom and been forced open and $1,700 stolen.
Burglaries were also reported in Butler County, including one where an 86-year-old woman from Prospect said a man approached her on her front porch asking for a tour of her property and when she went inside after the tour, she discovered a second man inside her home. She discovered after they theft that $1,625 in jewelry was missing.
A half-hour later, an 83-year-old woman in the Prospect area said she was gardening when a man approached and claimed to be a utility worker. She also subsequently discovered a second man looking inside a bedroom of her residence and called police.
Nothing was reported taken in the second case, but authorities believe they were related.
Agents said after the thefts, Nichols and Marino would often return to Florida, obtain multiple checks from a rare coin dealer and deposit the money into personal bank accounts. Those were proceeds from pawning jewelry stolen in Pennsylvania, authorities believe.
“Let this send a loud and clear message — if you target older Pennsylvanians, we’re going to hold you to account,” Shapiro said.
Marino and Nichols both are charged with operating corrupt organizations, conspiracy, burglary and theft charges. Warrants were issued for the pair on June 3, but a spokesman for Shapiro’s office said agents with the U.S. Marshal’s office took Marino and Nichols into custody last week in Florida, acting on several tips.
Marino was transported back to Pennsylvania and arraigned late Thursday in Butler County. Nichols reportedly waived extradition ad is awaiting transportation back to Pennsylvania for arraignment.
Marino was jailed in Butler County on $50,000 bond.