Colleague: Alleged armored car thief had problems

March 2, 2012 - 8:25 PM

PITTSBURGH (AP) — That Kenneth Konias Jr. is accused of making off with $2 million from an armored car doesn't surprise some of the people who knew him, but police allegations that he gunned down his co-worker inside the vehicle earlier this week does.

Konias, who has been on the run since the shooting death of his partner in a Garda Cash Logistics truck Tuesday, had an attitude about him and craved flashy cars and the trappings of wealth, a former colleague says.

The theft "wasn't a shocker to any of us down here," said Chris Bearley, the assistant fire chief in Duquesne, just outside Pittsburgh. Konias tried to join the department as a volunteer at about age 18, but was later asked to leave.

"He was your average 18-year-old, but he had an attitude about him. He had flashy cars, and he sort of had a gang-banger personality," Bearley said, adding that while the theft wasn't a surprise, the allegations of violence were.

The firefighters also wondered where Konias got the money for the Cadillac he drove.

"It was like top of the line. Tinted windows, the whole 9 yards," Bearley said, adding that Konias had been "accused of theft at a lot of the Mon Valley fire departments."

Michael Haines was found fatally shot in the back of the armored truck when it was found idling under a bridge in Pittsburgh on Tuesday afternoon. The truck had picked up money from the Rivers Casino shortly before 9 a.m. that day and was found about 3:40 p.m., after the guards had made several stops elsewhere, police said.

Pittsburgh police major crimes Cmdr. Thomas Stangrecki told The Associated Press that surveillance video from the area shows the truck had been parked under the bridge since shortly before 1:30 p.m. that day.

"There's a time lapse from when the truck was parked" until it was found, Stangrecki said. "He must have gone to the company parking lot where his car, his Ford Explorer, was parked, and got there and left the area."

Homicide detectives went to the home where Konias lived with his parents Tuesday evening and found his bloody uniform jacket in his bedroom. Stangrecki said Konias' family is cooperating with the investigation. They also don't think he had any help in the crime, either. Konias lived in Dravosburg with his parents, and they couldn't be reached for comment.

Stangrecki said investigators notified Pittsburgh International Airport and officials at various transportation agencies as well as U.S. border authorities to be alert for Konias, because they believe he may have his service pistol and another handgun.

Konias graduated from Serra Catholic High School in McKeesport, just south of Pittsburgh. A spokesman for the school didn't return calls seeking comment. The school website describes its mission as nurturing students in spiritual, moral, academic and social growth, and "preparing them to personify Christ's command to be a light of the world."

Authorities said that in cellphone calls the day of the crime Konias told one friend he'd killed someone and tried to persuade that person to run away with him and live off the stolen money.

Haines, 31, was found in the back of the truck when company workers went to find out why it had been idling under the bridge.

Veteran Pittsburgh attorney James Ecker said the case reminds him of a previous client.

In 1995 Sean Ellard Hitchman, a 27-year-old Pittsburgh resident, stole $1.2 million during his shift refilling Mellon Bank automatic teller machines. But Hitchman traveled under his own name and was arrested in Amsterdam.

"Both of them, in my mind were like absolute idiots," said Ecker, who added that much remains unknown about Konias and what actually happened.

"He then goes home, leaves a bloody, shirt, tells people he did it," Eckert said, referring to Konias' alleged conduct just after the shooting.

Others said that Konias' lack of planning suggests that he'll be caught soon. Authorities said Konias called friends and asked them about the extradition laws of Canada and Mexico.

"It's a matter of time, in my humble opinion," said Frederick Thieman, a former U.S. attorney who worked on the Hitchman case in 1995.

"I think it takes a lot of sophistication to elude authorities, regardless of whether it's national or international," Thieman said. And while having cash makes things easier, he said authorities are going to "get the support far and wide" from other law enforcement, since Konias is accused of murder and is considered armed and dangerous.