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Cops bust ring of warehouse burglars

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A lucrative burglary ring that hit commercial warehouses in Queens and Brooklyn when they were closed for religious observances was put out of business last week by police, the Brooklyn district attorney said.

Eight people from Brooklyn and Staten Island were arrested April 24 on a 67-count indictment that charges they carried out more than 30 burglaries, including nine in Queens, that involved more than $5 million in merchandise, Brooklyn District Attorney Charles Hynes said.

Businesses in Long Island City, College Point, Astoria, East Elmhurst and Woodside were singled out by the burglars, the DA said.

“The money gained from the sale of stolen merchandise was used to enrich members of this criminal enterprise,” Hynes said. “This type of organized crime increased the cost of doing legitimate business in Brooklyn and Queens.”

The burglars, who got into each warehouse by boring a hole through the roof and dropping inside, typically loaded goods onto the victims’ own trucks which they would then steal, taking an average of $150,000 worth of merchandise in each strike.

The goods ranged from electronics, such as camcorders, computers, video games and cameras, to ladies’ lingerie, children’s clothing, men’s shoes, auto parts, plumbing and bakery supplies.

The ring often targeted establishments when they were closed for holidays, preying especially on “devout Orthodox and Hasidic business owners who could not respond to their establishments at the time of the burglaries due to religious observances,” Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said.

The alleged ringleader, 61-year-old Robert Reyes of Brooklyn, was responsible for paying members of the crew and identifying targets, as well as storing and distributing the stolen goods, Hynes said.

Also arrested were Angelo Navarro, 31, John Matone, 58, Rosa Concepcion, 31, Efrain Nieves, 39, Carlos Rivera, 23, and Carlos Caraballo, 30, all of Brooklyn; and Angelo Mendez, 31, of Staten Island.

Most of the defendants have criminal records and face sentences of up to 25 years.

Police began the investigation after noticing a suspicious pattern of warehouse burglaries in 1999 and 2000.

The owner of Spartan Plumbing in Long Island City, who asked only to be identified as Antonio, said the burglars did $30,000 worth of damage to his business by Crazy-gluing the locks, cutting the phone lines and ransacking his office.

“It’s good that they’re off the street,” he said. “They can’t create any more damage.”

Antonio, who is Greek, said his business was targeted on a Saturday night last year during the Greek Orthodox observance of Easter.

“Everybody was at church at 12 o’clock at night,” he said.

Other business owners told similar stories.

“It was a devastating thing. They make you feel like you’re violated,” said Joe, the owner of F & S Bakery Supplies in College Point, who did not want to give his last name. His business was struck in March 2001.

“It’s a sad, sad commentary on today’s world,” he continued. “At least they can see that it’s not always that the bad guy wins.”

Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 229-0300, Ext. 154.

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