Mystery of missing coffeepot solved: Historian charged
JOHNSTOWN During his two decades with the Johnstown Police Department, Lt. David Gilbo has investigated many crimes. But until last month, he was never put in charge of recovering a single coffee maker.
“I’ve investigated coffeepot thefts as parts of larger burglaries,” he said, “but never like this.”
On April 9, Fulton County District Attorney Louise Sira noticed the Keurig coffee maker kept by her office in the county office building grand jury meeting room was missing.
A monthlong investigation resulted in the arrest of County Historian Peter Betz, who worked down the hall from the grand jury room and had access to the machine. He now faces petty larceny charges for the alleged theft.
Gilbo laid out the series of events his office believes led to Betz’s arrest. After Sira noticed the commercial-grade Keurig was missing, she asked around to see if any other agencies within the county building had taken it for temporary use.
Sira couldn’t be reached for comment Monday, but Gilbo said “she made sure it was actually missing.”
It didn’t turn up, so she called the police asking for an official investigation into the disappearance. When investigators arrived at the county office building, a small, broken homestyle coffee machine was set up in the Keurig’s former grand jury location.
“We think Betz took the nice machine and replaced it with a broken machine from a separate breakroom when people started asking around,” Gilbo said.
He wouldn’t comment on what implicated the longtime historian, but said when Betz arrived at the police station to be processed on May 7, Betz brought the missing Keurig with him and turned it in.
Betz refused comment Monday except to say, “I’m a bit more famous than I’d like to be.” He referred calls to his lawyer, Michael Albanese of Gloversville. Albanese did not return calls for comment.
Following the arrest, Fulton County Administrative Officer Jon Stead said Betz was put on indefinite unpaid leave. Betz held his job as county historian since 2006 and would have been paid a total of $6,234 for his services in 2013.
He also serves as a Perth town councilman, but it is unclear if he will step down from that seat.
The coffee machine is currently in a Johnstown Police Department evidence locker.
Montgomery County District Attorney Jed Conboy will handle the case in Fulton County since Sira has a conflict of interest.
Gilbo estimates the coffee maker is worth $125. “It’s not a major crime,” he said.
Under normal circumstances, the Police Department wouldn’t allocate as many resources toward a stolen coffee machine, even a nice one.
“This is a Catch-22 sort of situation,” Gilbo said, “It’s not worth a high dollar amount, but it is the district attorney’s coffee machine.”
Since the machine was originally purchased through the district attorney’s budget with taxpayer money, ignoring the theft could lead to claims of misappropriated funds.
“People could say Sira stole it,” he said, “or that her office was spending money poorly.”
Gilbo hopes to get permission to take pictures of the Keurig for evidence so the actual machine can be returned to Sira. He stressed Monday that his office has not grown attached to the machine or accustomed to its fine brew.
“We have our own,” he said.