The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

News

December 10, 2010

Pawn broker convicted

Jurors find him guilty of 10 counts

SUNBURY — A Northumberland County jury didn't believe Michael Cellitti's denials that he knowingly bought and sold thousands of dollars in stolen merchandise, and on Thursday, convicted him on 10 of 11 charges.

The jury deliberated less than 90 minutes before rendering verdicts that could place Cellitti, 51, of Sunbury, in state prison for years.

Cellitti silently shook his head from side to side as the jury foreman read the verdict: guilty of four counts of receiving stolen property, two counts of criminal conspiracy, corrupt organization, aiding the consummation of a crime, obstructing law enforcement and tampering with evidence.

He was acquitted of one count of receiving stolen property.

Assistant District Attorney John Muncer credited Northumberland borough police detective Edward Cope and officer Wade Lytle for a thorough investigation that included more than 10 search warrants, several accomplices and numerous victims.

Williamsport defense attorney Peter Campana declined to comment pending sentencing within 90 days.

Cellitti is free on bail until the sentencing hearing before Judge Charles H. Saylor.

He testified for an hour Thursday and repeatedly denied knowingly allowing nearly $55,000 in stolen merchandise to be bought and sold at the former Sunbury pawn shop, M&J Cash Converter, he co-owned for three months between April and July 2009.

Muncer told the jury in closing arguments that Cellitti's story didn't add up.

"Don't ask, don't tell is not a defense," he said.

In mid-July of last year, Cellitti's business partner and cousin Mark Brumbach was arrested on numerous charges stemming from a burglary ring that operated in Northumberland, Snyder, Union and Schuylkill counties.

Brumbach, 26, of Sunbury, and another accomplice, Nicholas Osman, 31, of Sunbury, pleaded guilty and are each serving five-year to 15-year state prison terms.

Admitted burglar Michael Wagner, 28, of Northumberland, pleaded guilty and received a seven-year to 19-year sentence.

Their arrests led to charges being filed against Cellitti. All three testified for the prosecution at Cellitti's trial as part of a plea deal, a point that Campana told the jury to consider.

"These charges are bogus," he said, adding that the convicted accomplices' credibility is suspect.

While stolen coins, tools and a television set were found in Cellitti's garage and house, and a stolen Pittsburgh Steelers necklace, other costume jewelry, cash and receipts were discovered in a bag removed from the shop after Brumbach's arrest, Cellitti had no idea that his business partner and two others were fencing items at the shop, Campana said.

Describing Cellitti as a family man who has been employed by the Sunbury Municipal Authority for 16 years and sober for 23 years, Campana asked "Why would he risk all that for some lousy jewelry?"

Muncer argued that Cellitti had to know something was amiss.

More than $50,000 worth of stolen goods was brought to the shop during its brief operation by Wagner, an admitted 50-bag-a-day heroin addict, and Cellitti "doesn't suspect anything at all?" the prosecutor said in closing arguments.

The key evidence in tying Cellitti to the burglary ring was the discovery of an inexpensive Pittsburgh Steelers necklace in a bag he removed from the shop the day after Brumbach's arrest and stored in a cabinet at his workplace.

Cellitti testified that he removed the items from the shop to secure them because Brumbach was in jail and not able to manage the business.

"It was cheap costume jewelry, but invaluable evidence in this criminal case," Muncer said.

— E-mail comments to mmoore@dailyitem.com

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