Police use GPS device hidden in pill bottle to track drug thieves

Phil­adelphia po­lice say they may have cap­tured the gun­men re­spons­ible for more than a dozen rob­ber­ies of area phar­ma­cies since last Decem­ber.

De­tect­ives are con­fid­ent, at least, that they have in cus­tody the two men who knocked off the Rite Aid at 8130 Roosevelt Blvd. on Monday night. Cops made the ar­rests with the help of a GPS device hid­den in­side a bottle of pills al­legedly stolen by the sus­pects.

Wil­li­am Webb, 50, ad­dress un­known, was form­ally charged on Wed­nes­day with 16 counts of rob­bery, ag­grav­ated as­sault, pos­sess­ing drugs with in­tent to dis­trib­ute, pos­sess­ing an in­stru­ment of crime, weapons vi­ol­a­tions, con­spir­acy and re­lated of­fenses. His al­leged co-con­spir­at­or, Ed­ward Schaef­fer, 29, ad­dress un­known, was await­ing a court ar­raign­ment on Wed­nes­day af­ter­noon.

Ac­cord­ing to a pub­lished re­port, Monday’s heist oc­curred at about 9:30 p.m. and the gun­men fled with a un­spe­cified quant­ity of pre­scrip­tion med­ic­a­tions.

In light of a re­cent rash of rob­ber­ies in­volving sev­er­al Rite Aid loc­a­tions and oth­er phar­ma­cies, the store planted a glob­al-po­s­i­tion­ing sys­tem in­side a pill bottle that a clerk gave to the ban­dits.

Po­lice soon picked up a sig­nal from the device and tracked the sus­pects as they al­legedly drove a get­away car south­bound on Roosevelt Boulevard and stopped at the rear of a house on Tor­res­dale Av­en­ue near Un­ruh Street, the pub­lished re­port said, cit­ing a po­lice source.

Of­ficers ar­res­ted Webb and Schaef­fer at the scene and re­portedly re­covered the stolen med­ic­a­tions, along with two hand­guns.

For months, de­tect­ives have been ap­peal­ing for the pub­lic’s help in solv­ing a series of sim­il­ar rob­ber­ies in­volving oth­er Rite Aid loc­a­tions, along with oth­er phar­ma­cies and busi­nesses.

In Oc­to­ber, Rite Aid an­nounced a $25,000 re­ward for in­form­a­tion lead­ing to the ar­rest and con­vic­tion of the cul­prits.

Pri­or rob­bery loc­a­tions and dates in­clude QRX Phar­macy, 7063 Castor Ave. (Dec. 10); Holmes­burg Phar­macy, 8039 Frank­ford Ave. (Dec. 22); CVS, 7350 Ox­ford Ave. (Jan. 8 and Aug. 6); Circle Phar­macy, 2853 Holme Ave. (Jan. 25); 7-El­ev­en, 1435 Cottman Ave. (Feb. 25); CVS, 8525 Frank­ford Ave. (Feb. 26); Rite Aid, 2503 Welsh Road (May 14 and May 21); Rite Aid, 6363 Frank­ford Ave. (June 11); Rite Aid, 8445 Frank­ford Ave. (June 23); Rite Aid, 7941 Ox­ford Ave. (Ju­ly 4); Rite Aid, 327 N. Chester Pike, Glen­olden (Sept. 4); and Rite Aid, 12311 Academy Road (Sept. 29).

You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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