FARRELL — A Farrell woman awaiting sentencing on charges related to thefts tied to sob stories she laid on unsuspecting victims was arrested Wednesday for allegedly going on a spending spree with the debit cards and checks of a woman who gave her a ride.
Joy A. Howell, 36, of 930 Hamilton Ave., was arrested at 4:23 p.m. at Idaho Street and Hamilton Avenue, Farrell, on charges of 13 counts of theft, nine counts of access device fraud and two counts of forgery.
Southwest Mercer County Regional police added a charge of drug paraphernalia alleging she had a metal spoon with residue on it in a pocket when she was arrested.
A woman reported to police that on Jan. 10 she was approached by Howell in the parking lot of Farrell Centre Plaza, Sharon-New Castle Road, with a request for a ride to New Castle Avenue, Sharon. The victim said she thought Howell worked in the plaza and took her where she requested, but noticed a day later that her wallet was missing from her purse, police said.
The woman checked with her banks and learned that unauthorized purchases had been made using her debit card and checks had been cashed, police said. The card and checks were in her purse.
On Jan. 11, Howell made the rounds of regional Walmarts, buying a PlayStation 3 in Hermitage, a futon and 30 CDRs in New Castle, and a cellular telephone case, 30 DVRs, dish liquid and other items in Cortland, Ohio, police said.
She bought items online from Autozone and was denied attempted purchases at Kmart in Niles, Ohio, and Sheetz at 1650 N. Hermitage Road, Hermitage, police said.
Howell issued stolen checks on Jan. 11 and 12 at 2381 S. Hermitage Road, Hermitage, to buy motor oil, cigarettes, antifreeze, cell phone minute cards, a lighter and a fuel card, police said.
The total amount Howell is accused of stealing is $1,719, police said.
Howell was arraigned Thursday by District Judge Ronald E. Antos, Farrell, and sent to Mercer County Jail for failing to post bond. Antos set a preliminary hearing for 10:15 a.m. Feb. 12 before District Judge Lorinda L. Hinch, Mercer, who will be subbing for him.
Howell pleaded guilty in December to a charge of theft covering three cases for accepting money from people in Hermitage after giving them the phony story that she had young children in her car, was pregnant and diabetic and needed money for gas. Howell also stole a wallet from a woman who gave her a ride and stole money from the cash register of a business when she asked an employee to use the phone. As part of her plea, Howell agreed to pay restitution in all of the cases.
She will be sentenced Feb. 7 on the theft charge and a separate charge of felony retail theft.
Howell also is wanted in Trumbull County on a charge of theft.