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DRUMS, Pa. -- On January 20th of this year, the Butler Township Police Department was contacted by the Safari Plaza Store owner.
The victim related that two individuals attempted to break into the Safari Plaza in the early morning hours of 01/19/2017.
The store owner said that his business did sustain property damage as a result of the attempted break in.
The store owner showed Police areas of his business that were damaged to include cable, phone and security camera wires that were cut by the individuals.
The victim advised me that the individuals broke the front lock to his business from them attempting to gain access.
The store owner related that the total cost of damages totaled $400.00.
Police reviewed the surveillance video that was provided to them.
When the footage was reviewed Police observed a white older model vehicle pull into the Safari Plaza parking lot at approximately 3:02 A.M. on 01/19/2017.
Video showed the said vehicle exit the Safari Plaza parking lot and turn onto Maces Road which is located south of the store owners business.
Minutes later, video footage depicted two individuals approach the North East rear of the business. The security camera was cut at that location.
The individuals were dressed in dark clothing and dark hats. One of individuals was wearing a white shirt underneath his jacket.
The footage showed the two individuals approach the front of the business at which time they proceeded to the front door and attempted to make entry.
The video showed the last sighting of the pair was at 3:45 A.M.
While Police were on patrol they conducted a suspicious person’s investigation at Country Corners which is located at 340 North Hunter Highway on 01/19/2017 at approximately 4:19 A.M.
The individuals that were involved in the suspicious person’s investigation were identified as John HILTON and Henry C. MELESKI.
They were occupying a white 1990 Buick Lasabre.
As Police continued their investigation they learned that the aforementioned vehicle matched the description of the vehicle from the Safari Plaza video footage.
It was noted that the Police contact that was made with Hilton and Meleski were within forty five minutes after the attempted break in took place and it was within the area of Safari Plaza at another convenience store that was closed.
Upon further review of the video footage from the suspicious person’s investigation, Police were able to observe that Hilton was wearing a hooded sweatshirt and a ball cap that matched the description from the video footage that was reviewed by Police from Safari Plaza.
Meleski was observed wearing a white shirt.
The Officer that investigated the suspicious person contact was able to positively identify Hilton and Meleski from their encounter.
As the investigation continued, Police learned that Hilton and Meleski have been previously charged and convicted for numerous amount of burglaries that they have committed together in the past.
Police charged Hilton and Meleski with one count each of Criminal Attempt, Burglary (Felony), Criminal Conspiracy, (Felony), Possessing Instruments of Crime, Misdemeanour, and Criminal Mischief.
Hilton was additionally charged with operating a vehicle with a suspended license.
Investigators with the Butler Township Police Department were able to connect Meleski and Hilton to a burglary that they committed in White Haven Borough a short time after the incident that occurred in Butler Township on 01/19/2017.
Hilton and Meleski are currently lodged at the Bucks County Correctional Facility on unrelated Burglary and theft charges from other Police Departments from the south east region of Pennsylvania.
As Police are working closely with Departments they are learning that the pair may be connected to an undetermined amount of unsolved burglaries throughout eastern Pennsylvania.
On 02/10/2017 Meleski and Hilton were arraigned by District Magistrate Daniel O’Donnell. Meleski and Hilton attended the arraignment by video from the Bucks County Correctional Institution.
Magistrate O’Donnell advised Meleski that his bail will be $25,000 straight cash and Hilton’s will be $50,000 straight cash.
Meleski and Hilton were advised that they will be remain at the said correctional institution and their preliminary hearings are scheduled for 02/22/2017 at 1:00 P.M. at District Magistrate O’Donnell’s.
The Philadelphia Police Department began investigating Hilton and Meleski starting back in 1995.
The investigations started in Philadelphia and then expanded outside of Philadelphia to New Jersey, Delaware and Maryland.
After a grand jury; in November / December 1999 Police arrested 31 individuals from the Kensington Area of Philadelphia charging them with over 125 burglaries including RICO.
During that time frame over 1,000 burglaries were cleared.
They all pled guilty to RICO and burglaries.
During that time frame Meleski was arrested for 10 burglaries and he got 15 to 36 months in prison and 7 years’ probation and Hilton was arrested for 6 burglaries and he received 2 years of incarceration and 10 years’ probation.
The jobs they were arrested for were night time commercial burglaries (retail clothing stores, convenience stores, bars, restaurants, repair shops, pharmacies, beer distributors, etc) where they would cut the phone line and then sit back waiting for the police to respond.
If the officers didn’t find the cut wires (sometimes they would tape them back together to fool the police) they would then break in by cutting holes in the roof or forcing back doors.
Once inside they would steal the safe, ATM, cigarettes, money and narcotics.
When the burglaries occurred in malls they would cut holes in the walls to enter the adjacent places 2, 3, 4 stores down from the original location.
They always wore gloves and, hoodies to cover their heads and faces.
They would for the most part discard their tools stealing new ones from Home improvement stores.
They would monitor police radios.
They would watch the police and know their habits.
Listen to court testimony and share information about tactics.
They can spot plainclothes police or soft cars fairly easily.