MAHWAH, N.J. – They broke car windows and stole valuables in several towns before Mahwah police busted a trio of organized vehicle burglary rings whose members – from Bergen, Rockland and elsewhere -- were dropped off and later picked up from local neighborhoods, authorities said.
A total of 75 criminal complaints were signed and more than 16 car burglary cases closed as a result, Police Chief James N. Batelli said.
In addition information gained from the investigation led to the identification of a residential burglary suspect in Rockland, the chief said.
“Typically, suspects would enter cars parked in driveways or the street and remove items such as purses, wallets, cell phones, cash, credit cards etc.,” Batelli said.
“In some of the latest incidents in the township, vehicles were broken into by using a center punch type of instrument to break the window and remove the items,” he said.
Police, in turn, alerted residents to lock their vehicles, remove valuables and keep a lookout.
They also learned that “those responsible were driven to this area and dropped off during the late night hours to break into vehicles and then were picked up at a pre-determined location,” the chief said.
Detective Sgt. Kevin Hebert and Detectives Michael Grassi and Eric Larsen, directed by Lt. Guido Bussinelli, reviewed surveillance video.
Then came a big break.
Hearing a noise, a victim heard a noise, ran out and chased a thief but lost him, Batelli said.
Uniformed officers saturated the area – along with K-9 Officer Robert Rapp and Remco, who tracked a scent to an isolated area in the Cragmere section, where it was lost.
It wasn’t long before detectives identified Stefan Apostolos, 27, of Mahwah, as their suspect. They charged him with several counts of burglary, theft and criminal mischief.
More arrests then quickly followed:
- Ricky Javier, 19, of Hackensack;
- Welling Antun, 20, of Teaneck;
- Nicholas Kurpick, 19, of Montebello;
- Abraham Compere, 18, Suffern;
- Paul Hoyt, 40, of North Tonawanda, NY.
An unidentified suspect remained at large, Batelli said.
“At the outset very little information was available on who may be responsible,” the chief said, “but through investigative leads, surveillances, and interviews those responsible were identified and arrested.”
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