Stephan pleads guilty to misdemeanor charge

PARKERSBURG – A Parkersburg man implicated in a fake robbery pleaded guilty Monday to a misdemeanor charge of falsely reporting an emergency incident.

Benjamin Adam Stephan, 19, Parkersburg, pleaded guilty to falsely reporting an emergency incident related to the February robbery of the Peoples News on Emerson Avenue. According to the plea agreement, Stephan was given a 30-day suspended jail sentence, one-year probation and was assessed court costs.

The plea hearing took place Monday before Wood County Magistrate Joe Kuhl. Stephan was accompanied by his attorney George Cosenza.

Stephan also will testify with regard to other criminal activity related to the incident.

In March, Parkersburg police arrested Brian Bradley Wright, 22, of Washington, W.Va., on a charge of felony grand larceny related to the robbery. His bond was initially set at $100,000, which was later reduced to $25,000 and he was released on bond.

According to police, Stephan called 911 and reported the business was robbed by a masked man dressed in all black. Dispatchers were told an unknown male dressed in black and wearing a black ski mask approached him in the rear of the business while Stephan was outside smoking, police said.

Stephan later told police the man approached him with a weapon, struck him in the face and fled on foot, police said.

Sgt. Greg Collins with the Parkersburg Police Department said the robbery sounded suspicious to police from the beginning. Collins said it was about one week into the investigation when police detectives believed the robbery was staged.

Wright is believed to have pointed a gun at Stephan before fleeing the business with approximately $22,000 in cash, which the two later allegedly split, Collins said.