Federal marshals return suspect to Morgan County to face burglary, theft charges

by Kate Shunney

U.S. Marshals transported the suspect in a Morgan County burglary case back to the area from Idaho to face felony charges this week.

Joseph S. Puffinberger

Idaho State Police arrested Joseph S. Puffinberger, 55, of Smithsburg, Md. in Kootenai County in northern Idaho on May 18. U.S. Marshals brought him to the area and Morgan County Sheriff’s Deputy Chris Roper took custody of Puffinberger on Monday, August 6.

Puffinberger was wanted on several outstanding warrants, including obtaining money by false pretenses, a felony.

Puffinberger was charged with obtaining money or property under false pretenses, burglary, grand larceny and being a prohibited person in possession of a firearm.

He was also charged as being a fugitive from justice. Pennsylvania State Police in Franklin County had issued a warrant for Puffinberger in March for stealing a car in the Antrim Township area.

Puffinberger also faces charges in Hampshire County for stealing a license plate and using it in a scheme to steal a Harley Davidson motorcycle from a Cumberland bike shop in 2005.

The Morgan County Sheriff’s Department is working with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) and the U.S. Attorney’s Office to pursue possible federal crimes related to Puffinberger’s activities in the region.

Local burglary, scheme

Local residents reported to the Sheriff’s Department in April that they suspected Puffinberger had stolen more than $100,000 worth of custom firearms, precious metals and electronics from their home. The couple had hired Puffinberger, who was living temporarily in Berkeley Springs, to perform contractor work at their home. The couple allegedly paid Puffinberger $3,000 up front to complete home projects. When they returned home after several days away, the couple discovered the work hadn’t been done and many items were missing from their home.

According to a criminal complaint filed in Morgan County Magistrate Court, Cpl. Scott Lemon opened a burglary investigation and interviewed Puffinberger’s girlfriend, who indicated he had likely left the area.

Shortly after Cpl. Lemon entered many of the stolen firearms and other items into the national criminal database., he received information from a detective in Virginia Beach that three items on the list had shown up – two Ruger .22 rifles in a pawn shop in Cheyenne, Wyoming and a Springfield 1911 pistol in a pawn shop in Cherokee, N.C.

Puffinberger was arrested four days later in Idaho, according to court documents.

In the stolen vehicle Puffinberger had been driving, arresting officers also located several electronic items that had been reported stolen in Morgan County.

Pa. charges

An arrest warrant from Pennsylvania, served by Deputy Roper last Monday when Puffinberger was returned to the area, is for a charge of felony theft by unlawful taking.

Puffinberger is accused of accompanying a woman to an Antrim Township Sheetz under the pretense of helping her buy a car from someone. According to Pennsylvania State Police, Puffinberger went with the woman to the convenience store, then went inside. He called her on her cell phone to tell her to come into the store and meet the person allegedly selling the car. When she went inside, she couldn’t find Puffinberger. On returning to the parking lot, she determined he had stolen the car they arrived in, and $2,000 in cash.

Puffinberger is being held at the Eastern Regional Jail in lieu of a $50,000 bond on Morgan County charges, a $2,500 bond for Hampshire County charges. Charges of being a fugitive from justice will prevent Puffinberger from being released from jail while he awaits court hearings on the charges against him.