Fired gun shop worker pleads guilty to stealing 72 weapons

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A former employee of a gun store near Altoona waived indictment by grand jury on Tuesday and pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court to stealing 72 firearms from the business and selling them for drugs.

Justin McElheny, 35, of Irvona, Clearfield County, pleaded guilty to two counts related to the thefts before U.S. District Judge Kim Gibson in Johnstown.

Mr. McElheny admitted that from December 2007 to October 2011, he stole 72 guns from East Coast Gun Sales, which has since closed, and sold them so he could buy Percocet and other painkillers.

Mr. McElheny was fired on Oct. 15, 2011 and surrendered to police in July 2012 after he was charged by state authorities in connection with the theft of 21 guns and cash from the store as well as the use of customer credit cards to buy weapons for himself.

At the time, the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives said it was investigating additional gun thefts. That investigation developed into the current federal case.

Judge Gibson released Mr. McElheny on $25,000 bond pending sentencing June 27.

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