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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Westfield Gun Thefts Key To Philly Burglaries

The Associated Press is reporting that the guns stolen from a Westfield, Pa gun dealer were the key to taking down 16 burglars in Philadelphia.

Sixteen people were indicted Wednesday in a $3 million guns-for-drugs ring that allegedly preyed on "mom-and-pop" pharmacies in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware.

Federal authorities were tipped off after four Philadelphia men were arrested and charged with stealing 188 guns from a Tioga County dealer in September 2005.

Investigators following up on that gun case uncovered information to file charges related to 34 pharmacy burglaries, most of them in the Philadelphia region. The thefts primarily involved two painkillers, Oxycontin and Percocet.

"This was a roving band of burglars that targeted small, 'mom and pop' pharmacies because their security systems were easy to breach," U.S. Attorney Patrick Meehan said.

Between December 2002 and June 2005, defendants drove around at night looking for small pharmacies with low-level security systems that would be easy to rob, authorities said. They disabled the alarms, cut the phone lines and stole the drugs, then returned to Philadelphia and sold the pills through a network of distributors, federal prosecutors said.

Investigators said the key to the indictments was follow-up done by investigators after Malkowski, Wojtiw and two others were charged in the Tioga County gun thefts in 2005, one of the largest firearms thefts ever in Pennsylvania.

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