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December 30, 2013

Pair behind bars on theft charges

JOHNSTOWN — A grinch was busy in Richland Township last week, Richland police said.

Police said 36-year-old James Thomas Smith Jr. snatched a red kettle filled with money from The Galleria on Dec. 24. Three days later, he was caught for allegedly stealing from Wal-Mart at Richland Town Centre.

Now, Smith and an alleged accomplice in the Wal-Mart incident are in jail.

Richland police said Smith was at the mall Christmas Eve  when he stole a red kettle and stuffed it into his shopping bag the moment a Salvation Army bell ringer turned her back.

“She followed him outside and he was standing there waiting for the bus,” police Detective Thomas Keirn said.

“She looked down and saw the kettle in his bag. That’s when we got involved.”

There was about $150 in the kettle, Keirn said.

Police charged Smith with theft and receiving stolen property. He is expected to be arraigned by District Judge Rick Varner of Salix.

Police said Smith and Barbara Ann Gula, 43, were at Wal-Mart Friday, where they attempted to return $395 worth of women’s clothing and DVDs without a receipt.

A review of the surveillance video reportedly showed Smith stuffing items into a shopping bag that Gula was holding.

Police believe the couple stole $733 in items during two days.

Smith and Gula, who both reside in the 700 block of Cypress Avenue, Johnstown, were charged with retail theft. Police also charged Gula with drug possession after they found her with 15 pills.

They were arraigned Friday by District Judge Leonard Grecek of Roxbury and sent to the Cambria County Prison.

Patrick Buchnowski is a reporter with The Tribune-Democrat. Follow him on


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