Lehigh Valley

Police say work release inmate escapes hospital in waiting car

He was arrested Monday on theft charges

S. WHITEHALL TWP., Pa. - Authorities allege a Lehigh County inmate seeking medical treatment at an area hospital made a break for it in January when he jumped a fence and hopped into a waiting car.

But his taste of freedom ended Tuesday in South Whitehall Township after he was arrested for allegedly stealing a woman’s credit cards.

Authorities charged James W. Schwartz with escape, theft, receiving stolen property and false identification to police following his arrest in South Whitehall Township Tuesday night. District Judge Jacob Hammond arraigned the 34-year-old, setting bail at a combined $60,000 on the two sets of charges.

Schwartz, of the 300 block of North 14th Street, is back in Lehigh County Jail.

On Jan. 2, emergency personnel took Schwartz, who was on work release, to Lehigh Valley Hospital Cedar Crest in Salisbury Township after being found unresponsive while working at Golden Corral, according to court records. Hospital security on Jan. 4 notified the county warden that Schwartz had hightailed it out of the hospital.

Schwartz had been housed in the Lehigh County Community Corrections Center.

Hospital officials told county authorities that Schwartz was seen going in and out of several units before he ran out of the hospital, hopped a fence and jumped into a waiting car. He left behind all his belongings at the hospital.

South Whitehall Township police, meanwhile, were called to the Giant at 3070 W. Tilghman St. about 9:15 p.m. Tuesday to investigate a theft report. Officers met the victim in the parking lot, and she reported that a man to whom she gave a ride took a bundle of credit cards out of her truck and ran, according to court records.

Police allegedly found Schwartz at the intersection of Cedar Crest Boulevard and Tilghman Street with a bundle of credit cards in the grass next to him. He allegedly gave police two different names and three different birthdays. The victim then identified Schwartz as the man who swiped her credit cards.

He's tenatively scheduled for a pair of preliminary hearings on Feb. 28.

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