Tuesday, July 22, 2014

2 in custody after string of area armed robberies

Details to be released at news conference today

January 13. 2014 11:44PM

By - elewis@civitasmedia.com

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WILKES-BARRE — Federal authorities said Monday that two men suspected in a string of armed robberies in several Wyoming Valley municipalities have been captured at at a motel.

Jeffrey Townsley, 42, and Charles Conden, 47, were arrested at the Red Roof Inn in Plains Township, the FBI Philadelphia Office said in a news release.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office charged Townsley and Conden with bank robbery and interference with commerce by threats or violence, according to the federal criminal complaint.The FBI said the pair were taken into custody Friday night.

They appeared before a U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas M. Blewitt in Scranton on Monday afternoon and were held at the Lackawanna County Prison pending a preliminary examination scheduled for Jan. 22.

The affidavit supporting the criminal complaint was sealed by Blewitt. The criminal complaint lists the offenses occurring from Dec. 23 through Friday.

A news release from the FBI says Townsley is charged with nine armed robberies. Conden is charged as a co-conspirator.

Despite the arrests, federal prosecutors in Scranton planned to present evidence to a federal grand jury today regarding the armed robberies. Several businesses that were robbed received subpoenas for surveillance recordings to be shown to the grand jury.

Luzerne County District Attorney Stefanie Salavantis said Monday that a news conference is scheduled for 1:30 p.m. today.

Here is a list of armed robberies in the area since December:

Dec. 24: First National Community Bank, Wyoming Avenue, Kingston.

Dec. 26: Claire’s Bar, Hazle Street, Hanover Township.

Dec. 26: Forever Nails Salon, West End Road, Hanover Township.

Dec. 27: Adult World Book and Movie Store, Route 11, Larksville.

Jan. 2: First National Community Bank, Sans Souci Parkway, Hanover Township.

Jan. 6: Dollar General, South Main Street, Wilkes-Barre.

Jan. 7: Aldi Supermarket, Pierce Street, Kingston.

Jan. 8: Thomas Food Mart, Washington Avenue, Larksville.

Jan. 10: Family Dollar, South Main Street, Ashley.

The nine robberies all involved a handgun and the suspect concealing his face with a bandana or ski mask, according to police reports.

Court records say Townsley, of Kingston, was cited by Kingston police with driving a vehicle without insurance on Dec. 30.

Conden, last known address as Larksville, is facing unrelated robbery and burglary charges in county court for his alleged role with three other men in a home invasion of an elderly couple in Bear Creek Township in April 2012. He was free since he posted $25,000 bail on July 12, 2013, after a county judge lowered his bail from $50,000, according to court records.

Conden and William Gronosky, 32, and Nathaniel L. Vestal, 40, talked to each other using code names while the couple in their 70s sat on a couch bound by wire and a cord with blankets over their heads. Conden used the code name “Mr. Green” while Gronosky was “Mr. Black” and Vestal was “Mr. Blue,” arrest records say.

Gronosky was recently sentenced to 33 to 66 years in state prison for a host of burglaries and robberies in the area, including firing a shotgun at a state police trooper.

An arrest warrant was issued for Vestal, last known address as Kingston, on Nov. 26 when he failed to appear in county court on charges related to the home invasion.

Wesley Hendricks, 51, of Wilkes-Barre, who state police allege was the get-away driver from the home invasion, is scheduled for trial in county court on Jan. 21.

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