A man wearing a Ross Township volunteer fire T-shirt carried a firefighter's boot to collect money for the families of Pittsburgh's slain police officers, but nobody has a record of receiving the cash from him, Pittsburgh police said.
Police confronted Michael Stebler, 26, Saturday night in the 1100 block of Pemberton Street in the Brighton Heights neighborhood, where officers said he told them he had been collecting money on behalf of the Pittsburgh Fallen Heroes Fund.
The fund has been getting heavy publicity in the media since the April 4 deaths of Officers Stephen Mayhle, Paul Sciullo II and Eric Kelly in the line of duty in Stanton Heights.
"It's very disturbing that three officers died and this individual's trying to make money for his own personal gains," Pittsburgh police Sgt. Patrick Knepp said. "We know he had other checks on him and he's been doing this for quite some time."
Police said Stebler told them the money that he collected was turned in at the city's Zone 1 police station and the Greater Pittsburgh Federal Credit Union.
Neither the credit union nor the Zone 1 station has a record of receiving money from Stebler, police said.
Police said they checked Stebler's credentials through Ross Township and learned that he had no affiliation with their volunteer fire department and was not authorized to collect on their behalf.
"Many people called about it. In that area in particular, the individual was sitting there with his boot, asking for donations," Knepp said. "We strongly encourage people to call us if someone is coming door to door. At this point in time, no one is authorized to be going door to door collecting for the Fallen Heroes Fund."
Stebler is free while he awaits a preliminary hearing on charges of theft by deception, theft by failure to make required disposition of funds and falsely impersonating persons privately employed.
Several checks and $108 in cash were confiscated by police when they found Stebler. Pittsburgh police want to hear from anyone who may have given money to him.
"We're asking anybody who is familiar with this individual and know his picture to call us here at the Zone 1 police station and let us know what they gave to this individual," Knepp said.
Anyone who may have given money to him is asked to contact Sgt. Joseph Gannon or Sgt. Patrick Knepp at Pittsburgh's Zone 1 police station at 412-323-7201.
Police fund donations should always be sent directly to the Greater Pittsburgh Police Federal Credit Union at 1338 Chartiers Ave., Pittsburgh, Pa., 15220. More details are posted at PittsburghFallenHeroes.com and the FOP Web site.
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