Police: 13 more victims say Derry Township constable took money for fake warrants, sponsorships
Thirteen more victims have come forward to report that a Derry Township constable took $7,971 from them last year after he claimed some had warrants for their arrest, according to court papers.
A few of the victims told county detectives they believed they were sponsoring Brian William McDowell, 35, in a shooting competition that police said didn’t exist.
McDowell was arrested Thursday on new theft, extortion and official oppression charges. Investigators said 15 more victims — including two who did not give him any money — reported dealings with McDowell after learning of his initial Jan. 14 arrest on similar charges.
McDowell told District Judge Mark Bilik during his arraignment Thursday that he was getting substance abuse treatment. Bilik freed him on $20,000 unsecured bail. McDowell previously posted $20,000 bail in the first case.
“There are a lot of people who believe you should be in jail through this whole process,” Bilik said while warning McDowell not to get in trouble again. “You’re only out on the good graces of the court and the fact that the DA’s office is going along with this.”
In total, McDowell is accused in the two cases of pocketing $11,787 from 22 people between April and December. He allegedly tried to get money from seven more people.
McDowell won a six-year term as constable as a write-in candidate in the November 2015 election to represent Derry Borough’s Ward 4. County voting records show that McDowell was elected with one write-in vote.
Westmoreland County courts have been suspended from using McDowell as a constable until the case is resolved.
County detective Randy Gardner alleged in court documents filed this week that McDowell contacted people in the community, many of whom he knew, through Facebook, friends and text messages in an effort to help them with unpaid court fines or warrants, some of which were made up.
In several instances, McDowell told victims that if they paid him, he would ‘protect’ them from the warrants or ‘freeze’ the system so no one else could arrest them. Some didn’t buy it and never paid him, according to the affidavit.
Four victims gave McDowell $4,370 in what they believed were sponsorships for a shooting competition, police said. The competition was did not exist.
“(A victim) stated McDowell claimed he was almost guaranteed to win and they would get more than their money back in Walmart or Cabela’s gift cards,” Gardner wrote in the complaint.
Constables are peace officers who are elected to protect the polls twice a year. They have statewide jurisdiction and can serve civil matters filed at Westmoreland County district courts, such as landlord-tenant issues. They make money through minor fees.
Constables here must be registered with the county sheriff’s office to serve criminal arrest warrants.
McDowell has no criminal history. His attorney could not immediately be reached.
A preliminary hearing is set for Feb. 27.
Renatta Signorini is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Renatta at 724-837-5374, [email protected] or via Twitter @byrenatta.