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Penn Hills man in N.C. for Florence cleanup among 4 suspected of looting gas station |

Penn Hills man in N.C. for Florence cleanup among 4 suspected of looting gas station

Holly Ridge Police Department
Nicholas D. Shaffer, of Penn Hills
Holly Ridge Police Department
Clockwise from left: Nicholas D. Shaffer, of Penn Hills; Nicholas P. Leone, of Smicksburg; Brian N. Cosgrove, of Bethlehem; Casey Hartzell of Marion Center

A Penn Hills man and two people from Indiana County were among four people from Pennsylvania arrested over the weekend near the North Carolina coast on suspicion of looting a gas station closed and without power from Hurricane Florence.

Holly Ridge police Chief Keith Whaley said the four were in town working for a company that was cleaning up debris from the storm.

“That’s your biggest fear, from a public safety standpoint, when you have these natural disasters, is people taking advantage of other people when they’re at their worst,” Whaley told the Tribune-Review on Wednesday.

Nicholas D. Shaffer of Penn Hills; Nicholas P. Leone of Smicksburg; Casey Hartzell of Marion Center and Brian N. Cosgrove of Bethlehem were arrested Sunday. Cosgrove was charged with felonies of breaking and entering, larceny and possessing stolen goods. Leone and Shaffer were charged with felony conspiracy and felony possession of stolen goods. Hartzell was charged with felony conspiracy. All four also were charged with misdemeanor drug crimes.

Bail for the four ranged from $20,000 for Cosgrove, who was also charged with resisting police, to $3,000 for Hartzell.

The four allegedly stole cigarettes and other tobacco products from the Speedway gas station on U.S. Highway 17 North. They had the stolen products with them when police arrested them, Whaley said.

Whaley said they worked for a Georgia company. They had chainsaws and a bobcat vehicle with them. They were not in Holly Ridge as volunteers.

Officers were called to the Speedway on U.S. Highway 17 after callers reported people with chainsaws at its front door. When police arrived, they could hear the burglar alarm and saw the four outside the gas station. Cosgrove took off running and was caught by police, Whaley said.

Highway 17 is the first major roadway inland from the North Carolina coast. Holly Ridge is about a five-mile drive from Surf City and an 11-mile drive from North Topsail Beach.

Whaley said high winds from Florence knocked down trees throughout the town. One tree fell through a mobile home. The people inside had minor injuries.

Fences were blown over. Shingles were blown off roofs, Whaley said. There was minor flooding. The entire town was without power until Tuesday.

Aaron Aupperlee is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Aaron at 412-336-8448, [email protected] or via Twitter @tinynotebook.

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