Four Hofstra University men's basketball players were charged with burglary Friday after police say they admitted stealing more than $10,000 worth of laptop computers, iPads and other items from fellow students.
The players stole from six dorm rooms and then sold the items on campus, at pawnshops and on Craigslist, authorities said.
Investigators used key card records and witness statements to link the players to visits to dorms where the incidents occurred in October and early November.
Sophomore Shaquille Stokes, and freshmen Jimmy Hall Jr., Kentrell Washington and Dallas Anglin, were arrested Thursday and immediately suspended from "the basketball team, classes, residence halls and facilities," pending the outcome of the case, Stephen Gorchov, associate director of athletic communications, said in a statement.
The dorm-room thefts occurred at Alliance Hall, Enterprise Hall and Graduate Hall, all on the Hempstead campus, according to police.
"They knew what they were doing," Nassau police Det. Lt. Ray Coté said. "They planned certain things, but a lot of them were crimes of opportunity."
They used their key cards to access some dorms but were let into others by friends and fans of the basketball team, police said.
Key cards helped in tracking
"They're prominent figures on campus, being athletes," Coté said. "And because of their social status they would have access to dorm rooms, and they would get into areas, visiting one person perhaps, and while in that area access a room that was unoccupied and take items."
The men frequented so many dorms that their movements around campus -- tracked with their key cards -- stood out to investigators, police said.
As students learn of the arrests, Coté said he expects "a significant increase" in students coming forward to report additional dorm-room thefts.
Hofstra head basketball coach Mo Cassara was not available for comment yesterday.
Cassara "had no knowledge of this, and ironically he was the victim of theft himself," Coté said.
Cassara reported to campus police that his iPad, iPhone, cash and credit cards were stolen on May 11, according to the university. While the four players weren't enrolled at that time, they haven't been ruled out as suspects because of the similarities of the crimes, a police source said.
Stokes, 20, of Manhattan, a transfer from the University of Hawaii, is charged with five counts of second-degree burglary, a felony. Hall, 18, of Brooklyn, is charged with four counts of second-degree burglary; Washington, 18, of Las Vegas, with two counts; and Anglin, 18, of Montclair, N.J., with one count and with tampering with evidence.
All four plead not guilty
All four were arraigned Friday in First District Court in Hempstead, entering not-guilty pleas through their lawyers.
Anglin was released on $2,000 cash bail. Wearing workout clothes adorned with the Hofstra logo, he declined to comment as he walked with his lawyer and a relative.
The lawyer for Stokes and Washington, Frank Whelan, of Rockville Centre, said the evidence isn't what it seems but declined to elaborate.
Bail was set for Stokes at $25,000 bond or $12,500 cash. Washington's bail was set at $10,000 bond, $5,000 cash. Hall was held on $20,000 bond, $10,000 cash. All three remained in custody at the county jail in East Meadow last night.
Each of the players has admitted to the burglaries in signed, handwritten statements to detectives, according to court papers.
"I did something real stupid," Hall told police, records show.
In his statement, Hall described an instance in October when he was in a dorm with Stokes. They walked by an open room and "saw a laptop sitting on a bed."
With Stokes acting as lookout, Hall said, "I took the laptop, a silver MacBook Pro, and I put it in my bookbag."
Hall stated that he "needed some money," so he placed an ad on Craigslist, offering two MacBook Pros for $600. Hall said he sold one of the stolen laptops to a man for $350.
Manhattan attorney Gary Villanueva, who represents Anglin, said his client tossed a stolen laptop in the garbage after feeling the heat of the investigation. "As a foolish 18-year-old, he threw it away," Villanueva said.
The case broke Tuesday when a female student whose iPad was stolen last month remotely activated the device's internal locator and found it had been registered to Stokes -- whom she considered a friend, a police source said.
She reported her find to police. Investigators then tracked Stokes' activity on campus, interviewed students and faculty, and "accessed electronic and written logs," according to Coté.
Police determined that all four players had stolen items, Coté said. The hoops stars sold the stolen goods, using the proceeds to buy clothes and off-campus meals.
"They were using this money that they gained to lead a more lavish lifestyle," Coté said.
The Hofstra basketball team, which competes in the Colonial Athletic Association, plays Southern Methodist University in a home game this afternoon. Hall and Stokes were starters on the team, which has a 3-4 record early in the season.
The university issued a statement saying, "Our first priority is to ensure that our campus is safe and secure. . . . We are saddened and distressed by these events."
With John Valenti, Candice Ferrette and Steven Marcus