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Attempted car break-in foiled by mourner

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Police arrested Lazaro Santos, 39, Alicia Apuy, 27, David Sulca, 38, and Nolen Ruiz, 24, on charges of criminal trespassing Friday at St. Mary's Cemetery in Flushing, where the foursome were detained by a groundskeeper after a visitor stopped them from stealing from his car, Officer Thomas McCarthy said.

"(Apuy) said that she was there for her family, but she didn't stop in at the front desk and register up. She didn't know where the grave was," McCarthy said. "The name she gave wasn't on the cemetery registry."

McCarthy was the arresting officer who at 10:45 a.m. followed up on a call from St. Mary's alerting the 109th Precinct that an employee had detained the four suspects.

The visitor whose car was involved in the incident left the scene and McCarthy said the only grounds for charging the four were criminal trespassing because they did not steal anything from the car.

"They were driving around," McCarthy said. "That's what raised the suspicions because the groundskeeper kept seeing them driving around without stopping at a gravesite."

The officer said the arrests came after three months of reported robberies in the 104th and 109th precincts where people were preying on the cars of mourners as they visited graves in St. Mary's Cemetery in Flushing and St. John's Cemetery in Middle Village.

McCarthy said the items that were reported stolen included credit cards, purses and wallets.

Since Friday's arrest, cops have connected at least one of the suspects to the use of a credit card that was believed taken from a car parked in St. Mary's Cemetery on May 14, McCarthy said.

Santos, who lives at 33-49 99th St. in Elmhurst., was spotted on a surveillance camera at Target in Elmhurst allegedly using a stolen credit card and has since been charged with grand larceny in connection with that incident, McCarthy said.

At the scene of the arrest Friday, Ruiz, who is from Manhattan, tried to escape the groundskeeper by jumping a fence, McCarthy said. He landed on concrete and broke his left wrist and fractured his left elbow and shoulder, the officer said. Ruiz was brought to the hospital and later released for his arraignment.

Santos and Sulca, who lives at 40-10 Junction Blvd. in Corona, both have prior criminal records, according to McCarthy. Santos' record includes arrests on robbery, drugs, forgery, larceny and criminal possession of stolen property charges, he said. Apuy lives at 108-49 48th Ave. in Corona.

At least three other similar cemetery break-ins were reported in the 104th Precinct within the past three months, one of which was traced to the suspects arrested Friday by a positive identification on the car, McCarthy said. There were five car break-ins at the two cemeteries that police were investigating as of Monday, McCarthy said.

Reach reporter Cynthia Koons by e-mail at news@timesledger.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 141.

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