Tri County Report For May 3rd, 2017

State police in Lawrence County arrested two Slippery Rock University students and are still looking for another suspect accused of wiring about $20,000 throughout western Pennsylvania in an organized fraud operation. Investigators said the three men wired the money via Western Union and Money Gram at various locations in Mercer, Lawrence, and Butler counties. Police said the men, from Camaroon Africa,  had fake driver’s licenses, registration plates, business checks, and passports. The amount of money they took was estimated to be around $20,000, but investigators said it’s likely to go higher. 37 year old Lawrence Francics, 26 year old  Lawrence Nana Tchakounte, both of Slippery Rock, face charges under the state’s RICO Act. Authorities are still looking for a third man 31 year old  Emmenuel Nwate also of Slippery Rock. Bond has been set at 100 thousand dollars.

More information is being released about a standoff in Beaver County.  Police were called to a home on 43rd Street in Pulaski Township on Monday night for a report of a man firing a handgun on the porch.  Upon arrival, they found a woman running from the scene.  She said Benjamin Cook held her against her will and assaulted her.  Authorities say the victim was hiding in the basement when Cook began firing the gun.  They say no one was injured and Cook eventually surrendered to police.

Negotiations between the South Butler School Board and its teachers union are scheduled to continue this month.  Monday night’s session started well, but ended without a deal.  A representative for the teachers union said she was initially encouraged when the board presented a proposal with a salary increase revision.  The union then countered with an offer but the district claimed it was not made in a spirit of compromise and the session stalled.

Pennsylvania is heading into the 2017 budget season with its biggest revenue shortfall since the recession. The state Department of Revenue is reporting that it has a shortfall in excess of $1 billion, now 10 months into the fiscal year. That’s more than 4 percent, a bigger margin than at any point since 2010. The Department of Revenue attributes April’s poor tax collections, in part, to the U.S. economy recording its slowest quarter in three years.

State Police in Butler County have charged a Pulaski man for allegedly sending a poronographic online video of himself to a teenage girl.  The New Castle News reports 41 year old Michael Paul Mason is being charged with corruption of minors, indencent exposure, criminal use of a communications facility along with unlawful contact with a minor. Mason is currently in the Lawrence County Jail for leading police on a chase involving multiple jurisdictions. He was arrested by New Castle City police Thursday and faces a number of charges in that incident. Bond was set at 125 thousand dollars.

A group of Pennsylvanians is asking legislators to raise the legal age to buy tobacco products.  Supporters rallied at the state capitol yesterday, claiming the move would save thousands of lives each year.  Research indicates most adult smokers start before they turn 21.  California and Hawaii have already raised their tobacco sales age.

Investigators from the National Weather Service have confirmed a tornado touched down in Butler County yesterday.  Crews say the tornado touched down near Prospect and was an EF-Zero, the weakest designation weather officials have for a tornado.  Severe storms knocked over dozens of trees and power lines in the region, toppling them onto cars and homes.  About 15-hundred people are still without power following the storm.

A former assistant football coach at California University of Pennsylvania will stand trial for allegedly sending sexual messages to two high school boys.  Police say 27-year-old Patrick Onesko sent the messages to students he used to coach at South Fayette High School.  Parents for one of the boys told police about the messages sent to their son on Snapchat.  Onesko lost his job shortly after his arrest.  His formal arraignment is now set for June 15th.