Two men convicted in violent robbery spree lose appeals

The state Superior Court has denied the appeals of two Eastern European men who, along with two others, rattled the community with a spree of violent robbery and burglaries.

Anatoliy Veretnov and Alexei Semionov were appealing sentences handed down to them for their roles in the crime spree, which included the robbery of the Centre Hall Dollar General, a Uni-Mart and The Bar in Boalsburg; the carjacking of a restaurant delivery driver; and burglaries of private residences.

A Centre County jury convicted Veretnov and two others, Maksim Illarionov and Dmitriy Litvinov, on almost all counts during a June 2012 trial. Semionov had previously pleaded guilty during an original trial for the four men, causing a mistrial.

Prosecutors said Veretnov wanted a new trial and claimed in his appeal that there was insufficient evidence against him to support the jury’s conviction.

The Superior Court ruled this week that the trial court was correct in finding that the verdict was not against the weight of the evidence presented at trial.

“...The jury found the testimony of the numerous eyewitnesses presented by the commonwealth credible, and elected not to believe (Veretnov’s) version of the events,” the appeals court wrote in its decision.

Veretnov is serving 30.5 to 60.5 years in state prison. Prosecutors said he was the main muscle of the group, and was the link to the guns stolen from Erie that were used in the group’s most violent crimes.

The Superior Court also rejected Semionov’s appeal.

Prosecutors said he pleaded guilty during the first trial for the men, but then sought to withdraw his plea and fight the charges again when the remaining three defendants went back on trial months later.

The appeals court found that Semionov was allowed to withdraw his plea after hearing so much of the prosecution’s case during the first trial, it would have put the commonwealth “at a severe disadvantage” and allowed Semionov “to adjust his trial strategy.”

Semionov is serving a sentence of 36 to 71 years in state prison.

“It is nice to see the failure of their attempt to get a third bite of the apple,” District Attorney Stacy Parks Miller said in a statement. “After all, some witnesses and victims were put through (half) a trial initially before we had to start over due to defendant’s maneuverings the first time. I am sure this will bring more peace to the victims who were terrorized knowing their convictions were affirmed and we are safer without them on our streets.”

Prosecutors said they have won an appeal to get a longer mandatory minimum gun sentences against Litvinov, who originally faced 39 years and eight months to 70 years and four months in state prison.

Appeals for Illarionov are still pending.