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NORTH TONAWANDA – A 23-year-old CVS Pharmacy worker and her 24-year-old boyfriend from Niagara Falls were arrested on felony charges only hours after North Tonawanda police began investigating what turned out to be a fake robbery the two staged Thursday morning at the Payne Avenue business.

Kayla Hotaling, of Doebler Drive, North Tonawanda, and Kevin Spellane-Newman, of 62nd Street, Niagara Falls, are are both charged with third-degree grand larceny, which carries a seven-year prison term upon conviction.

Police said Hotaling called them at about 7:50 a.m. and reported she had just been robbed by an armed bandit as she opened the store at 955 Payne Ave. She initially claimed the thief forced her to her knees and struck her on the back of the head after forcing her to open the safe so he could take all the money.

Hotaling, who was taken to DeGraff Memorial Hospital in North Tonawanda for treatment of the head injury allegedly inflicted by her boyfriend, caused police to initially put nearby schools in “lock out” mode, meaning nobody could enter the buildings without producing identification while a search began for a man who Hotaling said was between 5 feet, 8 inches and 6 feet tall, wearing a black hooded sweatshirt, jeans and sneakers. The lock out order at the schools was lifted at about 9:30 a.m.

After further investigation, Hotaling admitted that she and her boyfriend, Spellane-Newman, had staged the fake theft. In addition to the felony grand larceny count, she was being held on misdemeanor counts of conspiracy in the fifth degree and falsely reporting an incident in the third degree. Conviction on each of those charges carries a one-year jail term.

Spellane-Newman, arrested Thursday afternoon by Niagara Falls police, faces misdemeanor charges of conspiracy and criminal possession of a weapon.

North Tonawanda Police Chief William R. Hall sternly announced: “There was no actual robbery as the incident was staged to look like a robbery.”

email: mgryta@buffnews.com