Three members of a burglary crew of Chilean nationals, posing as tourists and sent by an organized crime group to steal from affluent homes on the North Shore and New Jersey, have been arrested, police said.
Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder, announcing the arrests Thursday morning, said the crew was part of a group based in Chile, with Chilean nationals being sent to New York, California and other parts of the country on 90-day tourist visas to commit the burglaries. The scheme has netted more than $1 million in cash, jewels and electronics from homes on Long Island and New Jersey, authorities said.
The so-called "Chilean Burglary Crew," as police called the suspects, allegedly struck up to a dozen homes in Hewlett, Great Neck and Saddle Rock in the last several weeks, said Ryder, who added that more arrests were coming.
Asked why the suspects picked Nassau as a target, Ryder said: "They're students of the game. They're studying where the money is."
The crew is connected through an alleged mastermind in Chile to another set of burglary suspects on visas from Chile arrested last month in Nassau, Ryder said. Those suspects were released without bail, but never reported to get their court-required GPS monitoring devices and are suspected to have left the country, Ryder said.
"You commit these crimes, we're going to hunt you down; We don't care what the laws are in place that are making our jobs harder, we're going to spend the resources to go after you and lock you up," said Ryder, referencing the new bail reform law that requires no bail, for example, on a second-degree burglary charge or other non-violent crimes.
Investigators from Nassau's Burglary Pattern Team, acting on intelligence, arrested the three newest suspects Tuesday night outside a residence where they had been living in College Point, Queens, Ryder said. The suspects consented to a search of their home, where police found jewelry and electronics believed to be the riches of their heists.
The trio, arrested on charges including burglary, conspiracy and being a fugitive from justice, were identified by police as: Boneek Alexander Quintero-Baeza, 32; Levy Frank Maury Bruggman, 23; and Alexandra Ivonne Pizarro-Blanche, 23.
According to a felony complaint, Quintero-Baeza broke into a home on Club Drive in Hewlett on Sept. 25 by breaking the glass of a second-floor bedroom window and stole "assorted designer bags and jewelry," valued at some $25,000. Quintero-Baeza, who was charged with second-degree burglary and being a fugitive from justice in connection with burglary charges police said he's facing in New Jersey, pleaded not guilty at his Hempstead arraignment Thursday.
Ryder said federal authorities allege Quintero-Baeza has in the past committed "violent robberies" in both Chile and Spain.
Bruggman was also arraigned on a charge of being a fugitive from justice in connection with New Jersey burglary charges. Bruggman has not been charged with burglary in connection with any of the Nassau heists, but a police spokesman said the investigation is ongoing.
Both Bruggman and Quintero-Baeza were ordered held without bail by District Court Judge Gary M. Carlton on the basis of the fugitive warrants. Lloyd Nadel, the Mineola attorney assigned to represent the men at their arraignment, said Quintero-Baeza told him he was innocent.
"He told me he wasn't there," Nadel said after the arraignment. "He was in California at the time."
Pizarro-Blanche, according to a felony complaint, rented cars "with the prior knowledge that the rented vehicles would be used in the commission of a crime" between September 2019 and December 2019.
Carlton ordered Pizarro-Blanche released without bail and ordered her to be monitored electronically. She is due back in court Tuesday.
Bryan Leandro Herrera-Maldonado, who police identified as the alleged ringleader, fled from police when they arrested the other three suspects Tuesday and is at large.
Ryder said the crew of three men and one woman "had just come back from a burglary they had committed in New Jersey unbeknowst to us at the time" when they were arrested.
Quintero-Baeza engaged in "a violent struggle against our detectives," Ryder said. Both Bruggman and Pizarro-Blanche surrendered to police without an issue, police said.
Last month, Nassau police arrested Bryan Alexis Farias Luna, 28, of Puente Alto, Chile, and Isaias Antonio Lienlaf Donoso, 35, of Santiago, at a home on Melville Lane in Saddle Rock, police said.
Each was charged with second-degree burglary.
The pair are "probably back on a beach right now in Chile watching this and having a good laugh," said Ryder.