DELAND, Florida -- Last month’s report of a gunman robbing two Papa John’s employees of the business’ night receipts prompted a large-scale search by the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office for the armed bandit. This week, deputies say tht the investigation led right to where it began -- with the two employees who reported the heist. Sheriff’s investigators have arrested both men after learning that the robbery was allegedly an inside job staged by the employees at the Papa John’s Pizza on North Woodland Boulevard near DeLand, Florida.
According to investigators, the assistant manager, 27-year-old Nicholas Donahey, first schemed to stage a robbery near a bank. He later scrapped that plan because of all of the security cameras. Donahey eventually solicited his co-worker, 22-year-old Brandon Pittman, to participate in a fake robbery in the parking lot of the pizzeria where they both worked.
When the robbery was first reported, the two told responding deputies that they were about to drive the night’s cash receipts to the bank when a stranger suddenly emerged, pointed a gun through the passenger side window of their car and demanded the money. The victims said they complied and the suspect fled with the money. Deputies say that their acting job was fairly convincing, as responding deputies noted that both victims appeared to be extremely shaken and were talking rather excitedly. The report prompted an immediate search by patrol deputies, aided by a Sheriff’s Office helicopter and K-9 unit along with DeLand police officers.
When the culprit wasn’t found, Sheriff’s investigators took over the case. And a few weeks after the robbery was first reported, the investigators cultivated a confidential source who claimed to have knowledge of the robbery and said that the entire episode had been staged. After corroborating the details, the case agent, investigator Brian Cobb, brought Donahey in on Wednesday for a follow-up interview. He initially gave the same story as he did on the night of the robbery. But after being confronted by Cobb about what he already knew, Donahey admitted that he planned the whole thing because he was having difficulty paying his bills due to financial problems. Donahey said that the role-playing robber missed one of the money bags and that he and Pittman split the small amount of cash that was in it. But in an ironic twist, Donahey claims the duo didn’t get most of their share of the loot because the accomplice who was recruited to play the role of the robber took off with the money. Investigators are still trying to determine if there was another accomplice.
Donahey was arrested on Wednesday and charged with criminal conspiracy and providing false information to law enforcement during an active felony investigation. He was booked into the Volusia County Branch Jail in Daytona Beach on $21,000 bond. Investigators also picked up Pittman on Wednesday. He was charged with criminal conspiracy and booked into the jail on $15,000 bond.