LATROBE (KDKA) — Pennsylvania state police say they have arrested one man after a large fire destroyed an adult bookstore in Westmoreland County overnight.

KDKA’s Ross Guidotti reports that state police took 44-year-old Joseph Pahel into custody this morning. He is awaiting arraignment sometime in the next 24 hours on theft and multiple arson counts at the Westmoreland County Jail.

“The reason why the building was set fire was because the person had committed a theft. There was money removed from the business,” said Trooper Steve Limani, of the Pennsylvania State Police. “That person, to cover up the theft, had set fire to the building. It was a short time after that we had received phone calls at the barracks. They were able to lead us in a direction, which we were able to focus our investigation onto him and from there we were able to take him into custody.”

The first calls about the blaze came into Westmoreland County 911 around 12:20 a.m. The building is located on Route 30 in Latrobe. Officials say the name of the business is Bargain Sales Incorporated.

“The last employee left at 10 after 12,” said Alfred Ferraro, an employee. “My boss got a call sometime shortly after that the fire alarm went off and it was a pretty extensive fire. From what I understand, it got pretty hot in there.”

At one point, flames could be seen shooting into the air.

According to sources, a door alarm went off inside, then the smoke alarm went off, and then another door alarm sounded.

The controversial adult book store had been a hot bed for protests by a local church that’s targeted the business as part of an anti-pornography campaign.

However, Trooper Limani said, “the person that set fire was not protesting or anything like that it was strictly to cover up a theft that took place at the building.”

Sources tell KDKA that Pahel was at one time an employee at the store.

Unity Township Fire Department
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