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Christmas thieves targeted dealer in Whitestone

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One of two Brooklyn men charged in the burglary of a Whitestone family’s home on Christmas Eve allegedly told police he had originally set out to rob a drug dealer when his partner saw a man go into a larger house and decided he would be a better target, according to the Queens district attorney.

Constantino Christo, 43, and Nicholas Papaleo, 33, both of Brooklyn, were arraigned on burglary charges Dec. 24 for allegedly dressing up like police officers and tying up a Whitestone couple earlier that day before fleeing the scene with more than $4,000 in cash, Christmas presents and jewelry, DA Richard Brown said.

The DA said following their arrest that Papaleo allegedly told police the duo’s original intent was to rob a drug dealer in the vicinity of the 169th Street home that they saw Robert Kapovic enter shortly before 10:20 p.m. Christmas Eve. Papaleo allegedly said Christo followed Kapovic into the home and they came out a short time later with Kapovic in handcuffs, the DA said.

Papaleo and Christo were arraigned on burglary, robbery, assault and criminal impersonation charges in Queens Criminal Court Christmas Eve. If convicted, they could spend up to 25 years in prison. Queens Criminal Court Justice Pauline Mullings ordered Papaleo held without bail and set bail for Christo at $1 million.

Brown said that shortly before 10:20 p.m. on Christmas Eve, Papaleo and Christo, clad in police uniforms, approached Kapovic as he went to check on a second property his family owned on 169th Street.

Brown said the duo allegedly told Kapovic that they had a warrant for his arrest and took him to his primary residence, where they forced their way into his home on 20th Road, when his wife, Deirdre Capone, answered the door. But Papaleo allegedly told police he waited in the car and followed them to Kapovic’s home.

The DA said the men allegedly tied Kapovic and Capone up with zip−ties for more than three hours while they ransacked the home, including the room where their four children — all under 7 years old — slept.

Authorities said Capone was able to free herself as well as Kapovic and then call police while her husband jumped in his car and followed a car driven by Christo and Papaleo.

Using the OnStar system in Kapovic’s car, Brown said officers from the 109th Precinct were able to find and apprehend Christo and Papaleo a short time later and the stolen items were returned.

Calls to both Christo’s and Papaleo’s attorneys were not immediately returned. The two men were scheduled to return to court Jan. 7.

Reach reporter Stephen Stirling by e−mail at sstirling@timesledger.com or by phone at 718−229−0300, Ext. 138.

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