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  Could Man In Payson, Arizona Help To Solve The Mystery Of A Police Undercover Agent Who Disappeared 43 Years Ago?  
  John Robek Was Last Seen May 31, 1974:   by BY JOHN A. DARNELL JR. associate editor   June 8, 2017 Edition  
John Robek
     43 years ago, on Fri., May 31, 1974,
      24-year-old John Robek, a Youngstown Police Department undercover agent, left his Amherst Ave. home, supposedly to go hunting with a friend. Robek has never been seen since.
      John Robek, of 7033 Amherst Ave., was a 1968 graduate of Boardman High School. He went on to Youngstown State University, graduating in Dec., 1973, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in education.
      Following graduation from YSU, he applied for a teaching position with the Diocese of Youngstown and worked as an assistant manager in the men’s department of K-Mart in Austintown until Mar., 1974; while also working with a childhood friend Ken Swartz, a graduate of Cardinal Mooney High School, as bouncers at a then popular bar called The Apartment on Midlothian Blvd.
      It was at The Apartment that Robek and Swartz were approached by Youngstown police detective Jack Lynch. According to Robek’s family members, Lynch wanted Robek and Swartz to become paid police undercover agents, working in narcotics and illegal drug sales.
      According to Robek’s job application filed with the Diocese of Youngstown, he left K-Mart in Mar., 1974, to begin his undercover duties in Youngstown.
      Little more than two months later, Robek turned-up missing, and the mystery of his disappearance remains unsolved to this day.
      “What in God’s name did he get himself into,” a sister, Marty, who now lives in North Lima, asks, adding “The family would like some closure.”
      Another sister, Carol, who lives in Boardman, claims her brother’s old friend, Ken Swartz, “holds the key.”
      “John loved being undercover,” Carol recalled recently, adding “I feel in my soul, and I always felt that before I die, I will know what happened.”
      The day John Robek never returned home, May 31, 1974, caused much concern for his parents, John and Marian Robek.
      They tried to file a missing persons report the day their son didn’t come home but Lynch, Robek’s boss, put them off, telling them a missing persons report couldn’t be filed unless the person had been missing for at least 24 hours.
      So the next day, on June 1, 1974, Robek’s parents called Lynch, asking if they could file a missing persons report.
      Lynch, according to Robek’s father (who is now deceased, and who left at least two, lengthy statements about his son’s disappearance), said the report had to be filed with the Boardman Police Department.
      While speaking with Lynch, Mr. Robek asked the policeman if he had spoken with his son’s partner, Swartz?
      “He (Lynch) said he couldn’t speak with him because he (Swartz) was out shopping with his wife,” Mr. Robek said, noting “This seemed awfully strange to us, as Swartz’s partner was missing and (Lynch or Swartz) didn’t seem to be worried.”
      As instructed, Mr. Robek called the Boardman Police Department and on June 1. Ptl. Steve Balog went to the Amherst Ave. home to take a missing persons report.
      After Officer Balog took the report, Mr. Robek recalled then Boardman Police Chief Grant L. Hess “showed-up” at the home.
      “He said he knew John was working undercover...and he was taking charge of John’s case,” Mr. Robek said.
      But Balog, and another fellow Boardman police officer, Glenn Bowers, recall Chief Hess ‘seemed to’ suggest that Lynch would be in charge of investigating Robek’s disappearance.
      After Chief Hess’s visit, Mr. Robek said that his son’s boss, Lynch, came to the home “and said he wanted...John’s buy records. There were two books, one in which he was really interested. He took that book and a bag of marihuana,” Mr. Robek said. A copy of the second book of purported buy records made by Swartz and Robek, has been obtained by The Boardman News. The whereabouts of the book seized by Lynch has never been determined.
      While visiting the Robek home, according to John Robek’s father, Lynch told the parents their son and Swartz were “the best team he ever had...He said that John was straight and Swartz had been in trouble at times...He said there was a cloud over Swartz’s head, but went no further.”
      * * * * * * * * * *
      On May 31, 1974, Carol Robek, John’s sister, was at home when she says she saw Swartz pick-up her brother about 10:30 a.m. Reportedly Swartz and Robek were going out to Green Township to hunt groundhogs.
      Lynch claimed that Swartz had been questioned “repeatedly” and after hunting, he dropped Robek off at his home an hour later.
      In his journal about his son, Mr. Robek says a Det. Mike Landers from the Youngstown Police Department, once interviewed Lynch about Robek’s disappearance.
      “According to Det. Landers, Lynch said that no one saw John leave his house with Swartz,” Mr. Robek said, while pointing out his daughter, Carol, “contradicts this...She made it clear she saw them leave together.”
      Raising eyebrows about the hunting trip to Green Township, is the hour-long time frame. It is unlikely Robek and Swartz could drive from Boardman to Green Township, get out of their vehicle, walk through heavily wooded-areas, hunt, get back in their vehicle and then return to Boardman in one hour.
      Sources have said while hunting, Swartz recalls he and Robek may have shot one groundhog.
      John Robek’s father reported the day after his son went missing, he was reading the Youngstown Vindicator and noticed a classified ad, offering several guns for sale. According to Mr. Robek, the phone number listed in the advertisement belonged to Swartz.
      “Knowing that John’s guns were missing. I told Lynch about this,” Mr. Robek said.
      “Lynch told us that Swartz said [my son] had given [the guns] to him to sell,” Mr. Robek said.
      The last time John Robek saw his son alive was May 31, 1974, about 6:30 a.m.
      Mr. Robek said he was going to work and before he left, asked his son to remove his car from the berm in front of the family home as a load of topsoil was scheduled for delivery.
      “He assured me he would move the car,” Mr. Robek recalled, adding “When I came home about 3:30 p.m., the car was still on the berm and the topsoil was on the driveway! This bothered me quite a bit, because knowing John, this would The caller babbled on and eventually was disconnected.
      Lt. Ed McDonnell handled the call, but he had been hired as a Boardman police officer long after Robek’s disappearance. He was not aware of the mystery of John Robek’s disappearance.
      Boardman police later determined the caller was Ken Swartz.
      Swartz had been living at the Melbourne Ave. home of his mother, Mary L. Swartz, who died Mar. 27, 2012.
      The phone call caught the attention of Det. Glenn Riddle at the Boardman Police Department.
      Riddle told The Boardman News that Swartz had agreed to speak with him regarding Robek’s disappearance, but then cancelled, and moved out of Boardman.
      In addition to working undercover with the Youngstown Police Department, Swartz held several other jobs with area law enforcement agencies.
      During 1972, Swartz worked with Mill Creek Park’s police department.
      On June 12, 1972, as part of his regular duties, Swartz picked-up two money bags, the day’s receipts of monies collected at the park’s golf course.
      One bag was subsequently reported stolen out of Swartz’s cruiser, who said it had been placed in the back of the vehicle that he left it unattended for a short time.
      In June, 1975, while still employed at the Youngstown Police Department, Swartz took part in a raid at 113 Hilton Ave. (Among others on that raid was former Boardman Police Chief and then YPD undercover agent Pat Berarducci).
      Allegations developed that money and possibly other items turned-up missing from the raid.
      Interviewed five years ago about the raid on Hilton Ave., Chief Berarducci told The Boardman News that was the only time he ever worked with Swartz, adding a Youngstown PD detective, Roger Halbert, “warned me after that to never meet Swartz anywhere alone.”
      John Robek was declared legally dead on Sept. 16, 1987 by Mahoning County Judge Charles P. Henderson, and his former fiance, Linda O’Brien, was able to claim funds from the life insurance policy he held while working as an undercover agent with the Youngstown Police Department.
      Swartz, now 67-years-old, now lives in Payson, Arizona, in a trailer park bordered by a national forest.
      He has yet to speak in detail with Boardman police about his old friend and partner’s disappearance.
 
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