After 23 years, Nebraska thief cleared by hillbilly robbery ring

June 25 – The home team claimed third over Christy Mathewson’s caper, knocking down the hurried visitor in charge and bringing home memories of the Hall of Fame pitcher and Factoryville native.

The FBI and State Police named Scott A. Stutesman as the prime suspect. The Nebraska souvenir dealer with a criminal history as a thief was in Lackawanna County at the time of the robbery from the windows of La Plume Twp’s Keystone College. A Scranton man has accused Stutesman of stealing his collection of ephemera from Roy Rogers on the same trip.

The city collector notified the FBI and a search of Stutesman’s home in Nebraska revealed several artifacts stolen from “The Singing Cowboy’s” museum in California.

What didn’t show up was the “Matty” product – his 1906 New York Giants jersey, his contract to play for the Giants and another he signed as a player-manager for the Cincinnati Reds. Proud Keystone veteran, I took the flight personally. I was thrilled to write the story making Stutesman the suspect.

It was released on March 23, 2000.

Nebraska authorities have charged Stutesman with the theft of four Roy Rogers artifacts. He was never charged with the theft of Keystone, who 23 years later federal authorities say was part of a burglar ring that stole artwork and Americana across the country.

Along with Matty merch, the nine-member ring is accused of stealing an Andy Warhol silkscreen and an alleged Jackson Pollock painting from the Everhart Museum, Art Wall Jr. trophies from the Scranton Country Club and a host of others rare treasures, including the art, antique weapons and World Series rings of Yankees legend Yogi Berra.

The nine conspirators were charged with a series of offences. The suspected ringleader, Nicholas Dombek, 53, of Thornhurst Township, is a fugitive but is unlikely to remain free for long. Like Dombek’s whereabouts, the locations of the stolen treasures at Keystone, Everhart and Scranton Country Club remain a mystery.

On Wednesday, Sunday Times writer Joe Kohut – who told this story and has owned it ever since – and I took a tour of the New Jersey home believed to be the last known location of the local loot. There was a deer in the driveway when we pulled up to the two-story home owned by brothers Alfred Atsus, 47, of Covington Twp., and Joseph Atsus, 48, of Roaring Brook Twp., All two accused in connection with the robbery ring.

Neighbors were shocked to learn that a criminal enterprise may have been operating on the tree-lined street of Union Twp., part of the North Jersey geography that founded “The Sopranos.” Like another neighbor who declined to be identified, Ruben Sergio-Alcivar, 31, said he assumed no one had lived in the house for some time.

“A man and a woman were there two or three weeks ago mowing the grass,” he said, adding that for a time a burglar alarm at the house was going off at all hours.

“Nobody answered, though,” Sergio-Alcivar said. “No people. No police.”

When we told Sergio-Alcivar that the drunken arrest of alleged conspirator Thomas Trotta, 48, of Moscow, led to the exposure of the ring, he noted that traffic checks led to the arrest of notorious serial killer Ted Bundy. A parking ticket tripped “Son of Sam” killer David Berkowitz.

“It only takes one mistake,” he said.

Or new. Over the course of my “varied” life and career, I’ve come to know a handful of characters who once ran successful criminal enterprises. I count a handful of them as good friends. One of them said that the key to keeping such a ring hidden is to limit the circle of conspirators.

“Nine people?” he said with a small laugh. “No way you keep running this for long.”

“They might as well have been the Scranton School Board,” I joked.

“Exactly!” roared my friend. He may still be laughing.

It’s easy to make fun of a hillbilly turning ring, but they’ve managed to make it last for decades. Some perspective on how far back this thread goes: The Keystone and Everhart heists happened before 9/11, before the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, before Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and TikTok and the widespread use of cell phones. Before the finales of “The Sopranos” and “Friends” and the premiere of “The Office”.

Before the high school and middle school classes of 2023 see the light of day.

It’s very long, and a far cry from the story I wrote about the FBI and State Police naming Scott Stutesman the prime suspect in Christy Mathewson’s hug. Searches of Nebraska criminal records databases and newspapers yielded no information on the fate of Roy Rogers’ charges, but I was able to locate Stutesman.

He still lives in Nebraska, which I guess is punishment enough. I left detailed messages for Stutesman on his cell phone voicemail. He didn’t call back. The Scranton collector who accused him died in 2007. He doesn’t speak either.

We still don’t know what happened to the local treasures the Hillbilly heist ring is accused of nabbing, but the FBI may be closer to recovering them than they were 23 years ago.

The indictment suggests that Thomas Trotta committed the armed robbery in Keystone and was involved in the Everhart heist. Without his DUI arrest, the Hillbilly robbery might never have been brought to justice.

And Ruben Sergio-Alcivar may never have heard of Christy Mathewson, whose memories belong to the town he called home.

Times-Tribune columnist CHRIS KELLY can’t resist knotty old threads finally coming together. Read her award-winning blog at Contact the author:; @cjkink on Twitter; Chris Kelly, The Times-Tribune on Facebook.

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