An ex-New York City Police detective admitted to his role in a burglary ring that stole more than $10 million in cash and property from Long Island homes and businesses over a four-year span.
Rafael Astacio pleaded guilty Thursday at Central Islip federal court to conspiracy to commit interstate transportation of stolen property and filing a fraudulent tax return.
“What makes Astacio’s crimes even more disgraceful is that he committed them while he was a NYPD detective who took an oath to protect and serve our community,” said Loretta Lynch, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of New York.
The 41-year-old Copiague man was arrested two years ago part of a five-man team that broke into 10 homes and three dozen businesses during their spree between 2009 and 2012, prosecutors said.
Out of his other four co-defendants, Leonard Repka of Lindenhurst pleaded guilty last month and Michael Figueroa of Mount Vernon pleaded guilty earlier this month. Nikitas Margiellos of West Babylon and Victor Arias of Copiague are in the midst of negotiating plea bargains, court records show.
One heist was worth over $3 million, involved 45,000 pairs of expensive Hobie sunglasses and Under Armour gear at a warehouse in Plainview. In another big score, they stole more than $2 million in cash from the office of a plastic surgeon in Nassau County.
Other communities that were targeted by the crew include Carle Place, Hicksville, Mineola, Baldwin, Freeport, Laurel Hollow, Syosset, Woodbury and Westbury. Establishments included perfume and cigarette warehouses, restaurants, high-end goods store and a coin shop. Investigators said they used the word “fishing” as a code for their burglaries.
The well-equipped crew used sledge hammers, wire cutters, blow torches and crowbars, as well as police scanners and cell phone jammers, authorities said. In addition, they staked out potential victims to determine when they would be out of their homes and businesses. Astacio’s assignments would be the lookout, monitor a police scanner and transport the stolen merchandise across state lines to be sold on the black market.
Astacio was a 20-year veteran of the force nearing retirement when he was charged. The NYPD suspended and then fired Astacio, who could have collected an $80,000 annual pension. He facing up to eight years in prison, a fine of up to $500,000 and $200,000 restitution when he’s sentenced.
Repka will be sentenced in October, followed by Figueroa in December.