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5 Men Indicted in $10M LI Burglary Spree
Law enforcement authorities arrested five men Thursday, including a now terminated NYPD detective, in connection with a sophisticated three-year burglary spree that netted approximately $10 million in stolen property and cash from more than three dozen Long Island homes and businesses, prosecutors said.
The men were rounded up for their alleged role in the lucrative crime spree after federal prosecutors unsealed a four-count indictment Thursday charging the group with conspiracy and the interstate transportation of stolen property.
The alleged burglars initially escaped detection by utilizing cell phone jammers and police scanners during the three-year crime wave, which occurred during 2009-2012, prosecutors said. But they also used traditional burglary tools, prosecutors said, such as blow torches, crowbars, wire cutters and sledge hammers.
The men were identified as 40-year-old Nikitas Margiellos of West Babylon, 50-year-old Leonard Repka of Lindenhurst, 52-year-old Michael Figueroa of Mount Vernon, 37-year-old Victor Arias and 41-year-old Rafael Astacio, both of Copiague.
Astacio, an active NYPD detective during the alleged burglaries, who NYPD Commissioner Ray Kelly said has since been terminated, was also charged with illegally accessing the federal National Crime Information Center database, which is maintained by the FBI.
A spokesman for the U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York declined to say how the investigation started, citing inability to comment on an investigation. But he did note that all the more than 45 burglaries all occurred on LI.
“The defendants were part of a sophisticated burglary crew that victimized Long Island businesses and residents for more than three years,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York. “Each defendant had a role to play in this band of criminals.”
George Venizelos, assistant director-in-charge of the FBI’s New York field office, said the men “did not discriminate” when selecting victims, adding that they “used a combination of physical labor and modern technology,” during the alleged burglaries.
In one example, four of the men spent three hours inside a Plainview business they allegedly broke in to on April 29, 2010 while Astacio and an unnamed coconspirator monitored police scanners and acted as lookouts, prosecutors said. The group eventually stole more than 45,000 pairs of sportswear worth approximately $3 million, prosecutors said, adding that they then transported the property across state lines and allegedly stole some sunglasses on the Internet.
During another alleged burglary six months later, the crew stole approximately $2 million in cash from a plastic surgeon’s office in Nassau County, prosecutors said.
Authorities fingered Margiellos as the alleged ringleader but directed their harshest criticism at Astacio. Lynch said the detective was “a police officer in name only, having sold his badge and his honor in exchange for his share of their ill-gotten gains.” Venizelos added that Astacio “betrayed his fellow law enforcement officers for a chance to line his pockets with his victims’ hard-earned money.”
If convicted, Arias, Figueroa, Margiellos and Repka each face 15 years in prison, and Astacio faces 17 years.