Police: Drug addict steals from homes she was hired to clean
HUGHESVILLE – Wearing a Lycoming County Prison uniform, recovering heroin addict Cristel Lajona Smith was arraigned last Wednesday on charges of allegedly stealing more than $30,000 worth items, mostly jewelry, from homes while she was cleaning the properties, according to state police.
Employed through Helping Hands to clean houses and businesses, Smith, 28, allegedly sold much of the stolen jewelry to get cash to buy heroin, Trooper Rebecca Parker said in an affidavit.
The thefts occurred at a half a dozen homes and one business, most of them in Moreland Township and surrounding communities between April 2016 and early this year, Parker said.
Smith, formerly of 152 Boak Ave., conspired with her then-boyfriend, Travis Lee Eiswerth, 29, of 141 Boak Ave., who was arrested earlier on the same charges.
Eiswerth told investigators that he was the one who “came up with a plan to steal everything and sell it to pay” for his and Smith’s heroin addiction, which at one point reached “50 bags a day,” investigators were told.
Eiswerth, who admitted he “did a lot of drugs,” claimed that he made Smith steal items from the houses and threatened to “beat her” if she failed to do so.
Early last August, when one of the victims discovered jewelry missing from her home on Bomboy Road in Jordan Township, she first contacted the owner of Helping Hands, Paula Biichle, who also is Smith’s mother, Parker said.
Biichle told the client that her daughter “had a problem with drugs and that other company employees made complaints that Smith was cleaning rooms with the doors shut,” Parker wrote in an affidavit.
About two weeks later, a former Helping Hands employee reported that “she quit working” for the company when Smith allegedly started stealing jewelry from clients’ homes, Parker said.
Biichle “tried to keep the stealing incidents on the ‘hush hush’ by paying people back,” the ex-employee told investigators. The former employee said she “knew Smith was a heroin addict because she observed needle punctures and track marks on Smith’s arms,” Parker said.
When another client notified Biichle in mid-August that a handgun and jewelry were missing from her home on Woods Run Road in Muncy, “Biichle instructed her to contact the police,” Parker said.
When another woman, a client of Helping Hands for 10 years, alerted Biichle in late July to jewelry missing from her home on Blue Sky Drive in Wolf Township, Biichle “admitted to her that she was having problems with her drug-addicted daughter,” Parker said.
Arraigned before District Judge Jon E. Kemp on a total of 25 charges, including multiple counts of theft and receiving stolen property, Smith, now living 1484 Route 220, Muncy Valley, and initially jailed on a probation violation, was recommitted in lieu of $25,000 bail.