Two face felony conspiracy theft charges after investigation

Two men face felony theft charges in Centre County after a lengthy investigation began with arrests in early September.

According to criminal complaints filed by Ferguson Township police, officers reported on Sept. 5 to Champs Sports Grill on North Atherton Street for a report of a person wanted by Centre County probation. Officers made contact with the off-duty probation officer, who identified Giovanni D. Mazzotta, 26.

Mazzotta allegedly attempted to run when approached by officers, but was secured, police said. A second individual identified by the probation officer, Michael P. Stevens, 33, also reportedly attempted to run, but was secured by officers.

Mazzotta said he had attempted to run because he had drugs, according to police said. A search of his person revealed a syringe, a bundle of wax papers containing a white powder and a bag containing a white powdery rock substance. He also reportedly had $668 in cash.

An officer returned with Stevens to Champs so Stevens could pay his bill, police said, but he again attempted to run out a back door. The officer reportedly chased him through the rear parking lot and a nearby field before threatening to deploy a Taser and taking Stevens into custody.

A search revealed $1,197 in cash on Stevens, police said. Stevens reported to officers his concern for a Dodge Nitro that had been parked at Champs, and reportedly turned over a key to the vehicle at the Ferguson Township police station.

An inventory of Mazzotta’s property revealed a receipt of payment for a Dodge Nitro for $5,600, police said. The vehicle was located and searched, where officers reportedly discovered a bag containing a white powder and suspected heroin packets, a container containing suspected cocaine, a bag containing suspected marijuana and a glass smoking device.

Several more bags were located in the back seat, police said, which contained a bag containing white powder, a bag containing suspected marijuana and $9,266 in cash. Additional locked totes were discovered in the trunk containing coins and paperwork.

Officers made contact with a woman referenced by Mazzotta on Sept. 7, police said, who reported meeting with him on Sept. 5 at a residence on Buffalo Run Road. She reportedly said he and Stevens had loaded several bags of luggage and locked totes into her truck where they drove to Tyrone to purchase a vehicle.

She reported putting a Dodge Nitro in her name and insurance, police said, as Mazzotta and Stevens paid in cash then put their belongings into the vehicle. They then reportedly traveled straight to Champs where they were subsequently arrested.

The woman said she was aware they sold drugs, police said, but denied receiving drugs from them.

During an interview at the Lackawanna County Jail on Oct. 4, Stevens admitted to knowing that the items in the totes belonged to the woman, but had intended to return them.

State troopers responded to the Buffalo Run address on Oct. 20 for a report of a theft. The resident reported that items, including cash, coins and paperwork, had been taken from a locked safe, police said, and the resident suspected a family member had been involved.

An inventory of the totes on Oct. 23 revealed multiple rare coins valued at about $10,427, police said.

Troopers responded again to the Buffalo Run address on Oct. 26 for a report of a deceased female, police said, who was determined to be the woman officers spoke with on Sept. 7. The death was believed to be accidental. Multiple bank envelopes were reportedly discovered in the woman’s room, which were confirmed by the resident as having been in the safe that was taken.

The items recovered by Ferguson Township police from the totes found with Mazzotta and Stevens were later confirmed as having been taken from the safe, police said.

Both were arraigned Thursday and charged with felony counts of theft, conspiracy to commit theft, conspiracy to receive stolen property and conspiracy of possession with intent to deliver as well as misdemeanor counts of possession of a controlled substance. Straight monetary bail was set at $20,000 each.

Preliminary hearings are slated for Wednesday.

Jeremy Hartley: 814-231-4616, @JJHartleyNews