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Pawn Shop Owner Sent to State Prison for Retaliating Against Cop

June 15, 2016


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Kathleen Byrne, 215.348.6366, kgbyrne@buckscounty.org

A pawn shop owner who stalked and harassed a police detective who had cited his Lower Southampton business for violations was sentenced Tuesday to serve one to two years in state prison.

John J. D’Angelo, 49, successfully schemed to have strangers sent to the detective’s residence seeking everything from scrap metal to gay sex. The malevolent pranks, executed through anonymous Craigslist ads, “put at risk the entire justice system,” Bucks County President Judge Jeffrey L. Finley said in imposing the sentence.

In addition to the prison term, Finley sentenced D’Angelo to a consecutive three years of state probation.

D’Angelo, of Trevose, had pleaded guilty Feb. 17 to felony charges of unlawful use of a computer and criminal trespass, as well as misdemeanor counts of stalking and retaliation against Lower Southampton Detective Gerald Scott. On Tuesday he also pleaded guilty to failing to verify the identity of a precious metal seller at his pawn shop, Gold N Stuff, on Bustleton Pike in Feasterville.

In July 2015, Detective Scott had issued D’Angelo two non-traffic citations for violating township ordinances at the pawn shop. D’Angelo pleaded guilty to one of the citations in September, which resulted in a 21-day suspension of business operations the following month.

Seething over the shutdown, D’Angelo spent his suspension hatching a plot to retaliate against the detective.

On Oct. 2, he purchased a pre-paid Verizon TracFone at a Warminster Wal-Mart store. He then used the phone – and a neighboring business’s wifi connection – to set up a Gmail account. Using that account, he placed an anonymous ad on Craigslist the following day, soliciting sex with men.

The Oct. 3 ad read, in part: “Wife’s away. Glory hole set up and ready – totally discreet – m4m. Wife’s away again and I have the glory hole set up. It’s all wood not a flimsy sheet. I’m a married white guy in good shape. Single home, very private. I’m good till about 6 a.m.”

A “glory hole” typically is a small opening made in a wall or partition, through which men can engage in anonymous sex.

The same day, a man responded to the ad, indicating his interest by using a reply link on the Craiglist site. D’Angelo answered anonymously, emailing the man Detective Scott’s home address in Warminster. He told the man to open the side door when he arrived and to enter the residence.

The man went to Scott’s house at about 11:30 p.m., found the door locked, and posted another inquiry. D’Angelo replied anonymously that someone was inside the house and that the man should come in. Sensing that something was awry, the man left, but not before a neighbor observed him trying to enter the house and called police.

D’Angelo continued his harassment by placing two more ads on Craigslist on Oct. 8 and Oct. 9, advertising various household items for free around the back of the house, as well as free scrap metal.

“Don’t mind the dog (it’s inside the house). Any time day or night is fine,” the first ad said. The second ad specifically told visitors to arrive between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.

At 10:30 p.m. on Oct. 8, a male stranger knocked on Scott’s door when the detective’s wife was home alone with the couple’s three children, inquiring about the free items. She called her husband, who came home and posted signs in his yard stating that the ad was a hoax.

An investigation by Bucks County Detective Eric Landamia and Warminster Township Detective John Bonargo traced the advertisements back to D’Angelo, his email and his TracFone number.

In court, Detective Scott told Judge Finley that, had the man mistakenly seeking sex entered his house, he likely would have shot and killed him as an intruder.

“This was more than a game,” Scott said of D’Angelo’s ruse. “Probably what would have happened is if that man had walked into my house…he would have found a threshold where he would not have walked out.”

“You’re still stunned, even though I am a cop,” he said.

D’Angelo portrayed himself as a decent, charitable man who had succumbed to 80- and 90-hour work weeks spent establishing his business, and who became irrationally angry when the police citations forced it to close.

“We couldn’t believe that we didn’t at least receive a warning,” he said, acknowledging that he wanted to get even. “I only meant to annoy, not to harm, Your Honor.”

D’Angelo said he was “deeply, deeply sorry,” and promised “that I won’t do anything remotely like it again.” He said that he had initiated a number of charitable endeavors since being charged, including counseling and finding jobs for former county inmates and writing a prison handbook to help orient those who are incarcerated.

Finley responded that D’Angelo might now have a chance to write additional books about life in state prison.

In retaliation for Scott having done his job as a police officer, Finley said, “You took time, and you developed a sophisticated plan to harass, to stalk, to abuse, to threaten, to intimidate Detective Scott.” By trying to lure gay men to Scott’s house, the judge added, “you even singled out a particular community for derision.”

Finley ordered D’Angelo to have no further contact with Scott or any of the witnesses in the case.

Approved for release by Matthew Weintraub, Chief of Prosecution.

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