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Police hope arrests put end to boro home robberies

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With the recent arrests of three male burglary suspects in Queens Village, police said they hoped they had put an end to a string of residential break-ins that may have targeted South Asians over the past month.

Two of the suspects, both from Corona, were due to be arraigned Thursday in Queens Criminal Court on charges of burglary at a Queens Village home belonging to a South Asian couple, police said. According to the couple, $40,000 worth of jewelry was stolen.

The Queens district attorney’s office identified the two suspects as Ivan Rodriquez, 35, of 47-15 103rd St. and Garcia Hoover, 23, of 58-35 Granger St. The name of the third suspect, a 15-year-old, was not revealed because of his age, and his status could not be determined.

In addition to burglary, Rodriquez and Hoover are charged with possession of burglary tools and criminal mischief, the DA said. They face up to 15 years in prison if convicted. Rodriquez is being held on $7,500 bail and Garcia on $5,000 bail, the DA’s office said.

Police said they were still investigating the possibility that the group may be responsible for previous break-ins and are exploring a theory that South Asians were a particular target.

Police alleged that on Dec. 23, Rodriquez and the 15-year-old, tried to break into the home of a South Asian family near 216th Street and 92nd Avenue at about 11:30 a.m. A neighbor noticed the pair and called 911, alerting two nearby policemen from the 105th Precinct, Officer Joseph Marinello and Sgt. Brian Burke.

Burke and Marinello arrested the two suspects as they tried to flee and recovered a pile of jewelry, a crowbar and Nextel phones, which allegedly were used to communicate with Hoover, the lookout, police said.

“They probably got a warning, but it was too late. We were on top of them,” said Deputy Inspector Michael Bryan, commander of the 105th Precint. A police plainclothes anti-crime team then showed up and canvassed the neighborhood, eventually spotting Hoover near 90th Avenue and 214th Street sitting in a 1995 Nissan Maxima and speaking into a Nextel phone, according to police.

“We knew he was the lookout,” Bryan said, explaining that the suspect in the car used a police scanner to alert his cohorts. Bryan said that such equipment was indicative of professional burglars, as was the fact that they stole mostly cash and jewelry and that most of their victims were South Asian, a community known to buy high-quality gold.

“We’re just wondering if these guys knew the Indians carry this more expensive gold,” Bryan said. “It’s possible they were being targeted.”

South Asians in the area agreed that the police were probably correct in their theory.

“A lot of people think that South Asians have the gold,” said Morshed Alam, a community activist originally from Bangladesh and president of the New American Democratic Club, a political organization for immigrants. “A lot of South Asians keep the cash at home, too, a reason they may have been targeted.”

While the South Asian family did indeed have expensive jewelry, according to the wife, they normally kept it in a safety deposit box at the bank. But on Dec. 23, they had just arrived home from a four-week trip to India and were then forced to go back to JFK Airport for a delayed piece of luggage.

They left the jewelry on top of their bedroom dresser. When they returned home, they found their back door lock broken and the contents of the dresser drawers strewn about the room. But police told them the jewelry, which is being held as evidence, had been recovered.

“I didn’t think anybody would take it so fast,” the wife said. “In a million years I never thought this could happen.” When she gets her jewelry back, she will “definitely leave it in the bank,” she said with a nervous laugh.

Police said Garcia and Rodriquez told them they had met in Flushing Meadows Corona Park playing soccer and then recruited the younger man.

The investigation continued into whether the three-man crew was responsible for additional burglaries, and police asked those with information to come forward. For now the break-ins have stopped. From Dec. 1 to Dec. 28, the 105th Precinct recorded 18 burglaries, well above the monthly average of five or six. Since the arrests it has had none.

Said Bryan: “Hopefully, this puts an end to that problem.”

Reach reporter Michael Morton by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or by calling 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.

Updated 10:25 am, October 12, 2011
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