Ligonier Valley police have filed additional charges in connection with a string of burglaries at downtown Ligonier businesses after gift cards stolen from a church office were used to make purchases a few blocks away.
For the second time in eight days, police executed a search warrant on an apartment on the 200 block of East Church Street and discovered drugs, drug paraphernalia and allegedly stolen property there.
Last Sunday, police charged Hunter M. Fitchko, 26, of Ligonier with one count of possession of a controlled substance and two counts of possession with intent to deliver a controlled substance after a search of the apartment and charged Joseph “Tristan” Minno, 34, of Washington with two counts each of burglary, theft and criminal trespassing, along with single counts of receiving stolen property and loitering and prowling at night.
On Monday, police charged Fitchkowith receiving stolen property, possession of a controlled substance, possession of drug paraphernalia and conspiracy, and charged his girlfriend, Madison Paige Kuncher, 22, of Unity Township with receiving stolen property and conspiracy.
“It all stems from the house where we had the drug arrest last week and a couple other burglaries we were able to solve,” Berger said.
According to an affidavit of probable cause, police were investigating a burglary at the Heritage United Methodist Church office and Connections Cafe at 109 South Market Street in Ligonier and found that more than $4,000 worth of Giant Eagle gift cards were stolen.
Assistant chief Michael Matrunics headed to the GetGo convenience store at 216 South Market Street and saw surveillance video allegedly showing Fitchko and Kuncher using gift cards to make a purchase, according to court documents.
“The church kept track of the serial numbers,” on the gift cards, Berger said. “Around 9 a.m. Monday, we had Fitchko and Kuncher using the gift cards at GetGo. The gift cards matched up with the serial numbers, so we were able to get another search warrant, we executed it and we found a whole bunch more gift cards, thousands of dollars worth, that matched the serial numbers that were stolen from the church.”
Berger said Minno is suspected of breaking into the church office.
While searching the East Church Street apartment, police found gift cards matching the serial numbers provided by the church as well as empty stamp bags of heroin, used hypodermic needles and a small baggie containing suspected methamphetamines.
Fitchko and Kuncher were arraigned Monday before Magisterial District Judge Roger F. Eckels and ordered held in Westmoreland County Prison in lieu of $5,000 bond each. They are scheduled to appear for preliminary hearings before Magisterial District Judge Denise S. Thiel on Dec. 6, the same day Fitchko and Minno are set to have preliminary hearings before Thiel on the charges filed Nov. 17.