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DELMAR – When Bethlehem police pulled over a 50-year-old Romanian man they found several disguises, lock picking equipment and manuals and more than $10,000 in brand new electronic devices.
The traffic stop in Slingerlands on the rented vehicle driven by George Piha came after a month long investigation into thefts of lockers at the Bethlehem Area YMCA and similar thefts from across the state.
Also in the car police found several cut up credit cards he allegedly stole from lockers at the YMCA.
The investigation determined the Apple and Microsoft devices were purchased using credit cards Piha allegedly stole from lockers in West Seneca and Gates, the western counties of Erie and Monroe, respectively.
Piha initially said he lived in Middle Village, a neighborhood in Queens. However, the investigation revealed he recently came to the U.S. from Romania. He is a U.S. citizen through naturalization, Horick said, but police are still trying to determine if he lives in this country or if he travels back and forth between here and Romania.
He is also suspected of having ties to similar incidents of credit card thefts from lockers— and subsequent high end purchases with the stolen cards — in Albany, Saratoga, Rensselaer, Erie, Monroe, Onondaga and Oneida counties.
The investigation is ongoing and multiple agencies are involved.
Bethlehem police recently executed a search warrant in New York City as part of the investigation.
Piha stands charged with multiple felonies of criminal possession of stolen property and tampering with physical evidence as well as the misdemeanor of possession of burglar’s tools and vehicle and traffic violations.
He was arraigned in Bethlehem Town Court and remanded to the Albany County jail without bail.
Anyone with information in regards to Piha is asked to contact Bethlehem Police at 518-439-9973.