Arrest made in Belpre Mart robbery

BELPRE – Police believe they have the man who allegedly robbed the Belpre Mart overnight on Thursday in custody.

The suspect, whom police would not identify Friday, was arrested after he attempted to cash in a winning lottery ticket, which he had stolen from the same store earlier that day, officials said. Belpre police said the suspect’s name will be released today.

Despite the suspect’s attempts to destroy the surveillance DVR at the Belpre Mart, 901 Main St., officials with the Belpre Police Department were able to reassemble the system and watch the video of the robbery, said Sgt. T. Williams with the Belpre Police Department.

Officers with the Belpre Police Department viewed the surveillance showing a single man executing the robbery, Williams said.

The suspect broke the glass out of the southside window behind the cash registers that face the ramp for Ohio 7/U.S. 50 and cut his left hand on the shards as he climbed into the building, Williams said

He then damaged equipment for the convenience store’s Internet, credit card, telephone and security systems before he stole as much as $10,000 in cash, officials said.

The suspect cut the phone line to the store at the rear of the building, Williams said.

Once inside the Belpre Mart, the suspect used a key to open one of the cash registers, and pried the other one open, Williams said. He stole cash and rolls of change from the registers, Williams said.

The suspect also took a large amount of cigarettes, e-cigarettes, and unopened packs of lottery scratch-off tickets from the scene, Williams said.

On Friday evening, the suspect entered the Belpre Mart and attempted to cash in one of the scratch-off tickets he had stolen from the store earlier in the day, Williams said.

Lottery tickets arrive at a store in packages, Williams said. These packages are registered to the store that will be selling them, identifying the ticket as coming from the store, Williams said. A package of lottery tickets is not activated as usable until the store does so, just prior to setting that package out for sale, Williams said.

The stolen tickets had not yet been activated, and will ring up as stolen once the package is reported as stolen, Williams said.

The employee working at the store called the Belpre Police and provided a suspect description, Williams said.

The suspect fled the scene and was discovered on a bike by Patrolman K.A. Nichols a few minutes later, Williams said.

The suspect was taken into custody and police are continuing to gather evidence, Nichols said.

The Belpre Police Department expects to release the suspect’s name today, along with official charges, Nichols said.

A search warrant was pending on Friday evening, and Belpre Police officers hope to recover additional evidence and stolen property once the warrant is obtained and executed, Nichols said.

The stolen lottery ticket which the suspect attempted to cash in was found discarded in the dumpster behind the Belpre Mart, Williams said.

“I just don’t know what to do, really,” said Sunil Joshi, owner of Belpre Mart. “It is a lot to take in and work through.”

Joshi re-opened the gas station and convenience store at 901 Main St., situated between Ohio 7/U.S. 50 and the Memorial Bridge, about 20 months ago and said he didn’t expect anything like this to happen. Prior to Joshi purchasing the business, the station had been closed for four years.

Joshi said he used to take all of the store’s cash home with him, but began to leave it in the store overnight several months ago.

“Since I opened 20 months ago, I felt it was a nice and safe neighborhood,” said Joshi. “The people have always been very nice and I never thought something like this could happen.”

Joshi said the worst part is the damage to the electronics.

“To fix the credit card, telephone and Internet and security systems could cost me as much as $40,000 and that will be hard to do,” he said. “It is too much.”

Joshi said he has insurance for the business but does not know how much it will help cover in the aftermath.

The store is open and able to sell gasoline and its other merchandise, but all sales will be cash only until things can be fixed, which Joshi said could take a couple of weeks.

“The police did get DNA from the blood and fingerprints from all over, so I hope they can get this man so I and my brother-in-law (who works in the store) can feel safe,” Joshi added.