A trio of teenagers from Ridgewood and Glendale long suspected in a rash of local graffiti vandalism that cost tens of thousands of dollars in damages may face stiff jail terms if they are convicted of criminal mischief charges, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.
A Long Island City man was also charged in an unrelated case for allegedly defacing a 21st Street subway corridor with his tag, the DA said.
The three teenage boys - Brian Esposito, 18, of 70-29 68th St. in Glendale; Christopher Fuller, 17, of 18-24 Grove St. in Ridgewood; and Juan Llerena, 17, of 20-27 Harmon St. in Ridgewood - are accused of committing 21 acts of vandalism between April and November 2002 in Ridgewood, Glendale, Maspeth and Middle Village, Brown said.
They were scheduled to be arraigned Thursday in Queens Supreme Court on a 48-count indictment, which charges them with criminal mischief, making graffiti and criminal trespass, he said.
Christopher St. John, 32, of 30-90 42nd St. in Long Island City, pleaded not guilty at his Feb. 3 arraignment on a separate four-count indictment and was released in his own recognizance, Brown said.
The combined damage from all four is believed to run more than $30,000, the DA said.
"Graffiti vandalism is a plague," Brown said in a statement. "It attacks our view, blights our environment and erodes our quality of life. We are resolutely determined to wipe it out."
The arrests of the three teens - believed to be affiliated with a graffiti crew known as RFW, or "Ready for War" - came as little surprise to local leaders who are very familiar with the tags the trio is believed to have spray-painted across the neighborhood.
"We knew who the kids were and we knew who the tags were long before they were arrested," said Paul Kerzner, the president of the Greater Ridgewood Restoration Corporation, a community group that battles vandalism and cleans graffiti-marred properties. "It was just a question of catching them."
Police searched Llerena's Ridgewood residence on Nov. 15, 2002 after recovering a videotape in which the teens recorded themselves in the act of vandalism, a tape authorities suspect the three planned to sell on the Internet or distribute among friends, law enforcement sources said.
Llerena was arrested after police uncovered a stockpile of graffiti paraphernalia - including spray cans, felt-tipped markers, a paint roller and grinding stones - in his bedroom, the walls of which were covered with his and his friends' spray-painted graffiti tags, the DA said. Esposito and Fuller were arrested shortly thereafter.
All three are now freed on bail amounts ranging from $500 to $12,000, Brown said. They face jail terms between four and seven years if convicted.
"Clearly I think there's an attitude of invincibility by these vandals," Kerzner said. "It's a game and I don't think that any of them learn from anybody else's experiences. I think that each of them has to be caught and then thrown into jail, and maybe then they'll sober up."
Police arrested St. John in a separate case on Oct. 10, six days after he is believed to have sprayed his tag and other graffiti on the walls of a subway corridor used by New York City Transit workers at the 21st Street "F" station, Brown said.
Reach reporter Dustin Brown by e-mail at Timesledger@aol.com or call 718-229-0300, Ext. 154.
©2003 Community News Group
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