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Homicide suspect faces extortion charges

by on March 26, 2014 11:00 AM

SALTSBURG — A Saltsburg man awaiting trial on homicide charges from the Dec. 31 slaying of a Tunnelton gun shop owner now faces additional accusations that he extorted more than $146,000 from the victim over the past year.

State police charged Jack Edmundson Jr., 43, on Tuesday with demanding the money from Frank Petro by claiming to be an undercover police officer investigating the sale of illegal lottery tickets, and promising to keep Petro from being charged in exchange for the cash.

In a lengthy criminal complaint filed this morning in Blairsville district court, Trooper Jason Morgan outlined a pattern of luxurious spending and gambling funded in part by Edmundson’s own participation in the underground lottery ticket scheme.

The lottery operation was called a “brown bag ticket” because winnings were delivered in cash in brown bags, according to the complaint.

Edmundson contacted Frank Petro’s brother, William Petro, in early October, saying he was investigating for the state police and attorney general, and said if Frank Petro quit selling brown bag tickets, the investigation “would all go away.”

When the three men met later at the parking lot of the Saltsburg fire station, Edmundson showed Frank Petro the kind of tickets he was selling, flashed a set of handcuffs on his waistband, and said he could arrest Petro at that moment.

William Petro told investigators that his brother agreed to stop selling tickets, turn in the supply of unsold tickets, and give Edmundson all but 10 percent of a $47,000 prize Petro had just won in the lottery.

Edmundson later met Petro at Frank’s Gun and Taxidermy Shop in Tunnelton and collected $42,000 from the winning ticket and $20,000 that Petro’s wife, Janet, also had won in the lottery, according to the complaint.

Edmundson’s sister, Janelle Hood, of Blairsville, and Kelly Corridoni, who employed Edmundson in 2012 at the funeral home she operates in Avonmore, told police Edmundson had been selling illegal lottery tickets, Morgan reported.

Frank Petro’s son, Bill Petro, told investigators that his father had told him about Edmundson and that Frank Petro believed Edmundson was an officer. Bill Petro said his father told him that Edmundson confiscated money from him and promised to give him a receipt, and that his father had met with Edmundson at the gun shop as late as Dec. 26 to talk about getting the receipt.

Janet Petro told investigators that her husband also told her about being pressured by Edmundson, but that on Nov. 22, they saw a TV news report of Edmundson’s arrest on charges of impersonating a police officer.

Troopers allege that Edmundson chased two teenage boys who had thrown corn at his car on Route 286, told them he was a police officer, then handcuffed and detained one of the youths.

“Frank became agitated that Edmundson was not a real cop and had extorted money off him based upon that belief,” Morgan wrote in the complaint.

Petro then contacted an attorney who was representing Edmundson in the impersonation case and talked about options for recourse, according to the complaint.

Morgan charges that the developments led to Petro’s murder.

“This act of taking money and the manner in which it was taken, caused Petro great concern, which led to Petro contacting an attorney,” Morgan said. “This act then caused alarm to Edmundson which resulted in Edmundson revisiting Petro at the shop on multiple occasions, subsequently shooting him on Dec. 31, 2013.”

In the complaint, one of two filed today against Edmundson, police charged him with operating a corrupt organization, theft, receiving stolen property, knowledge of property being proceeds of illegal activity, all felonies, and misdemeanor counts of dealing in unlawful lottery tickets and impersonating a public servant.

A second complaint charged Edmundson with felony counts of burglary, criminal trespass, theft and receiving stolen property, alleging that he broke into the residence of John Maguire at 800 Market St., Saltsburg, on Dec. 28, and stole $12,619 worth of collectable coins, $1,818 of stamps and $3,260 worth of jewelry.

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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