Law enforcement officers have formed a task force aimed at solving multiple cellphone store robberies in the Lehigh Valley.
Northampton County District Attorney John Morganelli created the multi-jurisdictional task force to "further ... investigations" into robberies at cellphone stores in the Lehigh Valley and northwest New Jersey and a related killing and reported abduction.
He announced its formation Tuesday.
Morganelli will supervise the task force that will include Assistant District Attorney Patricia Mulqueen, who heads the office's Violent Crime Unit, and law enforcement personnel, he said Tuesday.
There have been at least five robberies by two masked men of Verizon Wireless or AT&T stores since the fall. Police from those jurisdictions "have been in communication in an informal manner for some time," Morganelli said.
The bandits have gotten away with cellphones and cash, authorities have said.
Police are investigating in Lopatcong Township, Forks Township, Bethlehem Township, South Whitehall Township and Wind Gap and are trying to determine if the crimes are connected.
There are similarities in all five incidents and no suspects have been arrested. At least two stolen cars involved in robberies have been abandoned in Easton.
"Team meetings" will be held daily "until they are no longer needed," Morganelli said. The task force will analyze information and give "specific assignments to further these investigations," he said. The district attorney will be briefed by Mulqueen at the end of each meeting, he said.Robbers the morning of Feb. 9, 2017, enter a cellphone store in Wind Gap. (Courtesy photo | For lehighvalleylive.com)
No other information can be released at the moment, he said.
The latest robbery happened Saturday night off Route 22 in Lopatcong Topwnship, across from the Hillcrest Shopping Center. Warren County Prosecutor Richard Burke said Monday that authorities are trying to determine if there are links to the other Lehigh Valley robberies.
Forks Township police Chief Greg Dorney said he expected to share information with Lopatcong police.
Palmer Township police, who are investigating a killing and an abduction tied to the first robbery in Forks, have been aware of new robberies not long after they've happened. Bethlehem Township police Chief Dan Pancoast also said his department was involved in sharing information on the crimes.
Easton police have been working with the Warren County Prosecutor's Office and helped get a search warrant for the car in the Lopatcong robbery, Lt. Matthew Gerould said Monday.
When asked if Lehigh County District Attorney Jim Martin would be involved in the probes, his spokeswoman said, "Police departments investigate, the office of the district attorney prosecutes."
A Verizon store robbery in Forks Township on Oct. 29 was tied to the Nov. 21 killing of Michael Davis outside his Palmer Township home.
The 25-year-old worked at the Forks store at 301 Town Center Blvd. The store manager reported he was assaulted and abducted Nov. 22 outside his home, also in Palmer. In both Palmer incidents, the assailants were two men.
Then the night of Jan. 5, the AT&T Authorized Retailer at 3859 Nazareth Pike in Bethlehem Township was robbed by two men, one of whom brandished a handgun, according to police. Police after that robbery said they were investigating to see if it was tied to the Forks crime.
On Jan. 16, two men armed with handguns and dressed in dark clothing entered the Cellular Connection store about 8:06 p.m. p.m. at 3075 Tilghman St. in South Whitehall, police said. The men there also forced employees into an office area and made off with an undetermined amount of merchandise, police said.
They fled to Easton's West Ward but were able to walk away from a silver Hyundai, which was parked in a Spruce Street alley.
A Wind Gap Verizon store was robbed at 10:48 a.m. Feb. 9, with Slate Belt Regional police confirming it involved two robbers and a clerk who was tied up in a back room.
The suspects in the Wind Gap robbery are described as one being 5 feet, 8 inches in height and the other, 6 feet, 2 inches tall. Both wore ski masks over their faces.
Store surveillance footage shows one suspect wearing a white hooded sweatshirt and light pants and the other, a green sweatshirt with a dark hood.
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