A body shop employee from Medford charged with his girlfriend in a monthlong string of robberies used cars and license plates from his job to commit the holdups, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said Friday.
Ultimately, Christopher E. Marino's own license plate led police to him, Spota said.
In separate confessions, Marino, 29, and his girlfriend, Jamie L. Greco, 23, admitted to robbing 13 fast-food restaurants, gas stations and other businesses between Dec. 9 and Jan. 7 to get money to buy heroin. They also confessed to two attempted robberies, authorities said.
Spota on Friday outlined how authorities closed in on the couple, arresting them Wednesday near Marino's job, which had been under surveillance for a week.
"They would use different cars on different occasions," Spota said. "They were switching plates from the various cars."
Marino worked at the body shop on Chesapeake Avenue in Medford, where the two also lived, Spota said.
Marino, who is represented by Legal Aid, and Greco remain in custody on $1.5 million bail. On Thursday, Greco's court-appointed attorney, Steve Fondulis of Port Jefferson denied his client had any role in the robberies.
Authorities said they recovered a BB gun, one of two Marino used, at the body shop. Authorities initially thought the gun may have been real, Spota said.
Marino and Greco reacquainted when Greco was released from the Suffolk County jail on a Family Court matter in late November, and the two started using heroin, Spota said.
By early December, Marino couldn't afford to pay for the drugs, Spota said.
On Dec. 9, Marino held up a Medford Subway, their first robbery, Spota said. Greco was the getaway driver, police said.
But authorities were thrown off initially because different cars were used in the robberies, said William Madigan, Suffolk police chief of detectives.
By mid-December, police suspected the robberies may be a pattern and started surveilling the area, Madigan said.
But the couple took a 10-day break on Dec. 15, which baffled investigators. During that time Marino said they tried to get clean, court records show.
In his confession, Marino said that on Christmas Day, "I just couldn't take it anymore. I was getting sick. She was sick. I told Jamie 'I had to do a robbery to get heroin,' " Spota said, quoting from the confession.
The robberies continued.
On Jan. 7, detectives noticed a Hyundai with its occupants watching a Subway eatery. Police ran the plates, which belonged to Marino, Spota said, but he didn't own the car.
The next day, authorities released a surveillance photo of the male suspect.
Around then, authorities began 24-hour surveillance at the body shop where Marino worked, as well as of the couple, Spota said. At times as many as 100 officers were on the case, authorities said.
Police did not release information about the series of pattern robberies until Jan. 7, when Newsday wrote its initial story.
On Jan. 15, the same day the pair were arrested, Newsday published a story, citing law enforcement sources, that a male suspect may have used vehicles from a body shop to commit the robberies.
On Friday, police unions called on Spota to probe how a confidential intelligence report was obtained by Newsday.
In his news conference, Spota criticized the publication of the story and acknowledged that the unions had asked him to investigate. The prosecutor didn't say whether he would comply, but he said the intelligence should not have been disclosed.
"Newsday stands by its coverage of the story," said Deborah Henley, the paper's editor.