Indiana, PA - Indiana County

Suspect showed pattern of defiance, police say

by on March 27, 2014 11:00 AM

Jack Edmundson Jr. once boasted of having a Teflon-like lifestyle.

“Don’t you think it’s funny I always get out of trouble? I know people in high places,” Edmundson told a man who disbelieved that he was an undercover state police officer.

That’s according to a 20-page criminal complaint and affidavit filed against Edmundson this week in Blairsville District Court.

If anyone was keeping Edmundson out of trouble, that ended 17 minutes after the calendar changed to 2014, when state police formally charged him with fatally shooting Frank Petro on Dec. 31 in Petro’s gun shop in Tunnelton.

Investigators say Petro, 62, had discovered that Edmundson was not actually a cop who had demanded more than $140,000 from Petro in exchange for a promise of silence about Petro’s sale of illegal lottery tickets.

Instead, Petro realized he was a victim of extortion, his brother William Petro told police.

That allegation prompted an exhaustive investigation involving interviews with 24 people, examination of records at almost a dozen businesses and service of at least seven search warrants, by Trooper Jason Morgan and other investigators.

In court documents, Morgan laid out extensive grounds for extortion and related charges, but also depicted a pattern of brazen behavior, lavish spending and an attitude of defiance by Edmundson over the past 15 years.

 

Investigators learned that Edmundson worked from 2005 to 2010 as a supervisor at the Oklahoma Borough EMS ambulance company, which discovered in an audit that Edmundson stole $132,245 from the company by issuing two separate paychecks to himself on an ongoing basis. Having one payroll entry with the correct spelling of his name and a second entry with his name misspelled, Edmundson kept the ruse hidden for several years.

The company fired Edmundson, but kept the theft incident secret to avoid bad publicity. According to police, Edmundson received $18,000 in severance pay and agreed not to sue the borough.

In 2008, Edmundson set up an EMT training class in Oklahoma through Westmoreland County Community College, but had students register through him, in violation of WCCC policy, and “provided outdated materials which caused the students to fail the class,” according to the complaint.

Troopers learned from WCCC that Edmundson collected $6,344 in registration fees and for textbooks, but paid the college only $2,680 and refused to pay the rest.

Before starting with Oklahoma EMS, Edmundson worked at Lifestat Ambulance in Saltsburg where the owner, John Kravetsky, told police Edmundson had a record of violating Pennsylvania Department of Health regulations.

And beginning about 2003, Edmundson worked as a deputy coroner in Indiana County, first for Coroner Tom Streams, then for Coroner Michael Baker.

Edmundson leveled threats against Baker when he dismissed Edmundson from the coroner’s office, according to police.

“Edmundson told Baker that he should either reappoint him as deputy coroner or spend $10,000 to make him ‘go away,’” Morgan reported.

Baker told the Gazette that he asked for Edmundson’s resignation after learning of his criminal record in Lancaster County, where Edmundson had served as a police officer in the late 1990s. Online court records show Edmundson served about a year in jail in Lancaster County after being convicted in 2000 of stealing platinum coins from a safe deposit box belonging to a suspect he had arrested.

Investigators reported Edmundson also was named as a defendant in at least three lawsuits related to his activity in Lancaster County. He was paroled in 2001.

 

Edmundson’s fascination with positions of authority was more than apparent. State police found several uniform badges and identification badges from several police departments while searching his home Jan. 21, according to the complaint.

In November, Edmundson identified himself as a police officer when he chased two teenagers who had thrown corn at his car as he drove on Route 286. He caught one of the youngsters, handcuffed him so tightly that the boy’s hands started turning blue, and restrained him for a time, police charged. Edmundson was charged with impersonating a public servant, unlawful restraint, false imprisonment, simple assault, harassment and disorderly conduct. He was formally arraigned in the county court in January but action on the case has been postponed until August 2015, court records show.

Investigators say Edmundson approached Frank Petro in early October, after first contacting his brother William Petro, and claimed to be investigating Petro’s sale of illegal “brown bag” lottery tickets as an undercover agent for the state police and state attorney general.

Although Edmundson had no credentials as a policeman, investigators said they learned Edmundson also had been selling tickets in the same illegal lottery for about two or three years.

At least two others involved in the scheme told police they thought Edmundson was ripping off the program.

Robert Petrella, who also sold tickets, told investigators he saw Edmundson pay $20,000 to a winner who returned $2,000 to Edmundson in July, and that he suspected Edmundson had taken money from ticket sales that hadn’t been reported to the supplier.

Terry Czitterberg, who identified himself as Edmundson’s primary lottery ticket supplier, told police that he believed Edmundson had regularly stolen tickets and money that should have been turned in, since Edmundson began selling tickets.

Neither Petrella nor Czitterberg face criminal charges for their involvement in the “brown bag ticket” operation.

 

Investigators reported Edmundson had no full-time job after leaving Oklahoma EMS. He applied for Social Security Disability in January 2011 and initially was denied, but he was awarded benefits in June 2012, including a lump sums of $25,341 covering SSD that he should have been paid and $12,651 his children should have received since the beginning of 2011. The total monthly benefit for Edmundson and the children was $2,821.

With only the SSD benefits and wages earned by his wife, Amy Edmundson, the family lived “paycheck to paycheck, family friend Stephanie Simpson told investigators. Jack Edmundson told people he had money from a settlement, insurance and from his father’s estate, neighbor William Heasley told police.

Another friend, Jennifer Woodring, told police Edmundson claimed that he often “hit big” at Rivers Casino and won a “million dollar settlement” from an ambulance company. But Woodring said “no one had every actually seen any real money backing his story,” according to the charges.

According to investigators, Edmundson’s spending escalated late last year, about the time he reportedly got Frank Petro to pay him about $146,000, a figure representing the winnings from several tickets Petro and his wife, Janet, held in the illegal lottery.

Occasional visits to Rivers Casino in Pittsburgh became more frequent. His Players Card records showed he gambled there every six months, on average, from August 2009 through August 2013 and spent an average of $1,602 per visit, and the records for his wife showed she averaged $588 per visit.

But in November and December, Edmundson visited eight times and spent an average of $9,649.81 a visit, police learned. Only once he left a winner, with $1,359. Meanwhile, Amy Edmundson visited Rivers seven times and spent $4,868.98 a visit. (Police reported the money spent could reflect winnings that they immediately played again.)

On Nov. 3, police reported, Edmundson rented a stretch Hummer limo for six hours with $1,000 cash, then paid $540 cash at Dave and Buster’s “for all parties involved,” according to the charges.

Edmundson bought a 2007 Lincoln on Nov. 8, trading a 2003 Ford Expedition valued at $5,800 and paying the rest, $9,800 in cash.

Then Edmundson bought a fleet of all-terrain vehicles, paying $24,914 cash for three ATVs at Tom’s Cycle and $3,050 on Dec. 21 for another at Gatto Cycle.

And on Dec. 28, Edmundson bought an ATV trailer for $3,800 from David Porch. The check cleared Edmundson’s account Dec. 30.

 

Amy Edmundson told police in January that she and Jack Edmundson had twice refinanced their home to consolidate credit card debt, and outlined their household financial situation and monthly expenses as she understood them.

She said had been kept in the dark about the recent, sudden purchases.

“When she asked Jack where the money came from, not knowing that they had such money, Jack advised her that it ‘was none of her business,’” according to the complaint.

Morgan presents a detailed analysis of deposits and expenses in the Edmundsons’ bank and credit union accounts in the criminal complaint, reporting that the lump sum Social Security Disability payments financed a swimming pool along with shopping trips to Grove City and the Tanger Outlets.

Edmundson had a swimming pool built at his home for $25,525 in the summer of 2012, and bought a 2008 Ford Mustang in September 2012, paying $3,000 cash and financing the rest through Clearview Federal Credit Union.

A worker's compensation payment of $17,420 awarded in October 2011 went to living expenses, according to the report.

Otherwise, unknown sources of income sustained the family.

“Based upon Edmundson’s ‘suspicious’ cash deposits in 2012-13, and the comparison to their income/debt, it was determined that Edmundson did not have enough money per month to support a family and make extra purchases,” Morgan wrote. “It is unknown where the suspicious cash deposits originated from.

“During the months of May to September 2013, approaching the direct time of theft in this case, it is apparent that Edmundson was not maintaining a high balance in the account (at WoodForest National Bank). … This makes that cash deposits between October and December 2013 of $15,700 deemed to be a direct result of the theft of Petro’s money.”

Morgan concluded the same for balances in the credit union account records for October to January, which show dramatic increases in average deposits and average activity “essentially indicating that what is reported to be stolen money coming into the account beginning in October 2013 is spent in its entirety,” he reported.

“These numbers are also supported by the fact that there are no funds being transferred out of the account to a secondary account which could be used as savings, and there are no monies coming into the account as direct transfers to substantiate these balances. Therefore, it is concluded this money is from Petro as well.”

 

Morgan reports in the affidavit that Edmundson and Petro had met once before the extortion scheme began to unfold. That was in September, when Edmundson tried to collect $17,000 of winnings on a brown-bag ticket from Petro, but that Petro refused to pay, saying he did not know Edmundson and doubted the winning ticket was valid.

Jamie McAninch, a lottery player, told police that Edmundson became agitated because of that and said he “would go over Frank’s head,” the complaint shows.

Days later, Edmundson contacted William Petro, asked him to identify Frank Petro in a photograph, and told him that he was working for the state police and attorney general and investigating Frank Petro’s sale of the lottery tickets.

When William Petro expressed disbelief, Edmundson told him “Don’t you think it’s funny I always get out of trouble?” and claimed to have powerful friends who helped him: “I know people in high places.”

William Petro agreed to arrange a meeting with Edmundson and his brother in the parking lot of the Saltsburg fire station, where Edmundson questioned Frank Petro about the $17,000 winning ticket, the complaint shows. Edmundson told Frank Petro that he was an undercover officer for the state police and attorney general and told him to stop selling the tickets. He showed Petro a set of handcuffs on his waistband and said he could arrest him.

William Petro told police that Edmundson told his brother to turn in his supply of tickets, and that Frank Petro said he recently won $47,000 in the lottery. Edmundson told him to keep 10 percent and give him the rest, arranged a visit to Tunnelton a few days later and met him at Frank’s Gun and Taxidermy Shop, where Petro paid him $42,000 plus $20,000 that his wife, Janet Petro, also had won in the lottery.

Edmundson asked Petro if the surveillance cameras were working and Petro said no, according to the complaint.

Morgan reported in the charging documents he learned from Janet Petro that her husband remained fearful of Edmundson and declined to pay $84,000 for a winning ticket presented by Dan Evanick because of Edmundson’s “investigation.”

Petro obtained the money to pay off the ticket, but told Evanick on Oct. 28 that if he came to pick it up, he would be arrested. Eventually, Edmundson told Petro to give him the $84,000 and the rest of his tickets.

 

Edmundson’s scam began to collapse Nov. 22, when Janet and Frank Petro saw a TV news report of Edmundson’s arrest for detaining the teenager who corned his car and for impersonating a police officer.

That same evening, police said, Petro contacted Edmundson’s lawyer to try to get his money back.

Alarmed at the turn of events, police say, Edmundson paid several visits to Petro at his gun shop, culminating on Dec. 31 when Edmundson removed a gun from a display case, shot Petro twice in the torso, and prepared to set the gun shop on fire.

The security camera in the gun shop captured video of the confrontation.

While Edmundson spread gunpowder through the shop and sprinkled a flammable fluid on it, Petro mustered the strength to try to stop Edmundson.

Edmundson kicked Petro’s face and knocked off his glasses, the video showed.

In a hand-to-hand struggle, partially obscured when the men went behind the gun display case, Edmundson was shot in the right thigh. He then took control of the handgun and shot Petro two more times, in the chin and neck.

Edmundson phoned Indiana County 911, claimed to be a paramedic, told a dispatcher that he was wounded and had shot Petro in self defense, and requested an ambulance and a medical helicopter, according to police.

While Edmundson was flown to UMPC Presbyterian Hospital in Pittsburgh and sent into surgery on his wounded leg, Petro died at the scene of the shooting.

Troopers learned of the extortion plot from William Petro and reviewed the surveillance video, then wrote up the criminal charges for homicide, attempted arson and other counts. Police exchanged paperwork by fax with District Judge Guy Haberl, who was on call for all cases in Indiana County over the New Year’s Day holiday period.

Haberl held the charges for trial following a preliminary hearing Feb. 21.

Edmundson is next scheduled for formal arraignment in Indiana County Court on Friday.



Chauncey Ross is the Gazette’s fixture at Indiana Area and Homer-Center school board meetings, has been seen with pen and notepad in area police stations and courts, and is something of an Open Records Act and Sunshine Law advocate. He also manages the Gazette’s websites and answers your questions about them.
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