Apollo police chief facing charges


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The Apollo police chief was arrested on charges that he stole and sold guns from a residence as well as police guns and other equipment purchased with the Armstrong County borough's grant money and pocketed the proceeds.

Chief Paul Breznican Jr. turned himself in to state police Wednesday and was arraigned by Magisterial District Judge James Andring on felony counts of theft by unlawful taking, theft by deception, receiving stolen property and theft by failure to make required disposition of funds, and a misdemeanor charge of official oppression.

In an affidavit, police said Chief Breznican illegally confiscated a shotgun and rifle on a suicide check in 2006 and sold the guns to a dealer in Saltsburg, Indiana County, 10 days later.

He is also accused of selling one of the department's AR-15 rifles -- purchased with federal grant money -- and ammunition to a Spring Church man two years ago as well as a .22-caliber rifle, a tear gas gun and a tear gas baton to an arms dealer in Apollo.

"We believe these are people that he knew," said Armstrong County District Attorney Scott Andreassi. "What his motivation was for doing it, we can't tell you."

Chief Breznican was suspended with pay a week after the case was brought to the attention of state police by Mark Ford, the boyfriend of Apollo manager Lori Weig-Tamasy.

Mr. Ford went to state police on the borough manager's behalf June 6 to report that she realized weapons were missing from the police department when she started looking for items purchased with $50,000 in federal grant money between 2006 and 2009.

She did not come forward herself because of her position with the borough, the affidavit states. Ms. Weig-Tamasy could not be reached for comment.

In a subsequent investigation, police spoke with James Minich of Spring Church, who said Chief Breznican sold him a new AR-15 rifle and a case of ammunition two years ago.

He sold the ammunition for $15 a box and the rifle for $700, according to a criminal complaint. Mr. Minich said the chief told him the AR-15 was his personal weapon.

Police also reported that they learned Chief Breznican sold a .22-caliber rifle, a tear gas gun and a tear gas baton for $250 to Bob Shearer of RWS Arms. Mr. Shearer told police the chief said the items belonged to the police department and the borough decided to get rid of them.

Apollo officials said Chief Breznican never received approval to sell the police department's property and no proceeds from the sales ever came back to the borough.

In an interview June 8 with Chief Breznican, state police said he admitted to selling to Mr. Minich.

Chief Breznican's attorney, Gregory Swank, could not be reached for comment.

Ron Baustert of the state police in Kittanning, who was a police officer in Apollo from 2005 to 2006, told police that two guns confiscated from an Apollo man in April 2006 went missing a week after they were checked into the department's evidence locker.

Police interviewed the man, Mark Robinson, who said the chief seized the guns from his bedroom in his mother's home when his family called police because they were worried about him.

Mr. Robinson said he told the chief he wasn't going to hurt himself. He was not committed to a mental health facility, but the chief took the man's .30-30 rifle and a 12-gauge shotgun, according to the affidavit.

Two weeks later, Mr. Robinson said, he ran into Chief Breznican and asked for the guns, which held a sentimental value because they belonged to his father.

Mr. Robinson told police that Chief Breznican said he couldn't give back the guns because "there was too much paperwork involved and too much red tape" and handed him $100 in cash.

Police reported that they learned Chief Breznican sold a .30-30 rifle and a Remington 870 12-gauge shotgun to Bees Guns in Saltsburg on May 7, 2006. He told the owner, Kenneth Bee, that the guns were involved in a suicide.

The complaint also states that the Apollo council said Chief Breznican failed to return two items valued at $1,500 to the borough when he was asked to return all police equipment. The criminal complaint lists the items as a dog bite suit and a bail remote door opener.

Chief Breznican was taken to Armstrong County Jail, where he posted bail Wednesday evening.

neigh_east

Taryn Luna: 412-263-1985 or tluna@post-gazette.com.


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