Cops: 4 from Calverton steal shrimp to sell for drug money

Joseph Elardo, Sharmane Cromer, James Donnellan and Nicole Joseph Elardo, Sharmane Cromer, James Donnellan and Nicole Johnson, who were arrested Jan. 30, 2013, supported their drug habits by stealing more than $2,400 worth of frozen shrimp from supermarkets and selling some of it to a Mastic Beach restaurant, Suffolk County police said. Photo Credit: SCPD

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Four Calverton residents helped to support their drug habits by stealing more than $2,400 worth of frozen shrimp from supermarkets and selling it to a Mastic Beach restaurant, Suffolk County police said Tuesday.

Crime Section officers from the Seventh Precinct uncovered a series of thefts from supermarkets in the Fifth and Seventh precincts and found a bag of stolen shrimp in a vehicle driven by the suspects on Jan. 30, when they were pulled over, police said.

Officers found money inside the vehicle believed to be proceeds and arrested the four. They were charged with 22 counts of petty larceny and two counts of attempted larceny. They also face two counts of possession of a hypodermic needle and one of criminal possession of a controlled substance.

The four -- Joseph Elardo, 34, Sharmane Cromer, 34, James Donnellan, 33, and Nicole Johnson, 22, all of 169 Southfield Rd. -- were arraigned Friday at First District Court in Central Islip.

Each was remanded on bail of $2,000 cash or $4,000 bond.

All are scheduled to be back in court on Friday, according to court records.

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Sgt. Joseph Suarez, of the Seventh Precinct Crime Section, said that the police investigation revealed the four sold the shrimp to only one person -- Xue Chai Li, 34, owner of Tai Yu Chinese Restaurant at 195 Mastic Beach Rd.

She faces charges of criminal possession of stolen property. She was also cited by the Suffolk County Department of Health for a sanitary code violation of using an unapproved source to obtain authorized food.

Suarez said the thefts were from at least three supermarkets, including King Kullen in Patchogue and Manorville between December and Jan. 30, when the four suspects were arrested.

One store reported missing shrimp, and Crime Section officers from the Seventh and Fifth precincts found surveillance video of the suspects taking shrimp from stores, Suarez said.

They went through frozen-foods aisles, putting bags of shrimp in their carts, recyclable shopping bags and under their clothing, Suarez said. They apparently took shrimp, he said, because they were able to sell it "at discounted prices" to the restaurant.

Suarez said that police are looking into the theft of other merchandise from other stores, including a CVS, but "that's still under investigation."

Police declined to say what kind of drugs the four purchased with the proceeds.

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