Two get more charges in fake agents case

More charges have been filed in a case involving two men accused of posing as federal drug agents to rob a marijuana dealer in December.

Justin David Hardin, 20, of 1415 Third Ave., is charged with a slew of federal offenses for his role in delivering a letter from the accused robbers to the alleged robbed marijuana dealer. The letter, delivered Jan. 10, furthered lies and demands of the two men, who allegedly impersonated DEA agents to rob the dealer at gunpoint in his home.

Hardin allegedly admitted he did the bidding of one of the alleged robbers, Stephen M. Espenlaub of Altoona, for $50 and some marijuana, a police report states.

Hardin allegedly donned a badge and carried a handgun to deliver the letter, requesting $20,000 and 20 pounds of narcotics to establish what Espenlaub allegedly conveyed as a “pay to play” deal with corrupt police officers who had robbed him Dec. 18, the report states.

Hardin claims he neither read the letter nor was aware of the December robbery until after he delivered the letter to the dealer, Damien Morris, at his 1305 Ninth Street home, the report states.

When Hardin learned of the scheme, he refused to return to the residence and retrieve the money, the report states.

Hardin was arrested Thursday as a result of text message information police gained from one of Espenlaub’s confiscated cellphones.

Hardin was arraigned Thursday on charges of robbery, burglary, aggravated assault, criminal trespass, criminal conspiracy, theft by deception, theft by extortion, impersonating a public servant, simple assault, owning a firearm as a convict, carrying a loaded weapon and carrying it without a license and receiving stolen property. A preliminary hearing is scheduled for Hardin on Wednesday before Magisterial District Judge Jeffrey P. Auker. Hardin’s court docket states he has chosen to utilize his right to a public defender during his hearing.

On Jan. 11, a day after Hardin delivered the letter to Morris, Espenlaub, 39, returned to Morris’ home to retrieve the money and drugs requested. Police, informed by Morris, arrested Espenlaub when he arrived. Espenlaub remains behind bars at Blair County Prison while the other accused Dec. 18 robber, Espenlaub’s brother Shawn T. Espenlaub, 33, was bailed out of jail, a sergeant at the prison said.

The brothers, both of Altoona, await trial for the robbery of Morris that netted them $4,000 in cash and six pounds of marijuana.