Five members of a Chilean theft crew, sent to Long Island by an organized crime syndicate, have been charged with burglarizing four homes on Nassau's affluent North Shore — the third such crew busted since December, prosecutors said Friday.
The five men, who were arrested Thursday, targeted high-end homes in Glen Cove, Sands Point, Locust Valley and Great Neck Estates, stealing cash, watches and a safe, records show.
The suspects, who were arraigned in District Court in Hempstead, were in possession of fake Argentine visas at the time of their arrests, said Anne Donnelly, deputy bureau chief of the Nassau District Attorney's Rackets Bureau.
The men, Donnelly said, brazenly told arresting officers that their handler recruited them to burglarize New York homes and that the risk of jail was low because of the state's new bail reform laws, which requires no bail for misdemeanors and many nonviolent crimes.
"All of the defendants pose an especially strong risk of flight," Donnelly said.
James Clark, the defendant's court-appointed defense attorney, asked for the men to be released on their own recognizance. But District Court Judge Martin Massell ordered all five held without bail, even though only two were charged with bail-qualifying offenses.
Juan Antonio Hernandez Rosas, 25; Bayron Felipe Cruz Palta, 26; Fabian Lopez Catalan, 20; William Jesus Mendel-Perez, 23; and Amaro Valentino Rosas, 23, were each charged with second-degree burglary and pleaded not guilty. Rosas and Perez were additionally charged with the attempted burglary of a home on Southfield Road in Glen Cove.
The crew is part of a cell that sends Chilean nationals to New York, California and other parts of the country on 90-day tourist visas to commit the burglaries, Donnelly said. The proceeds are then sent back to the group's ringleader in Chile.
The five men are responsible for three burglaries, and one attempted burglary, during the past three weeks on Nassau's Gold Coast, police said.
Last month, Hernandez, Rosas and Mendel-Perez broke into a home on Cedar Lane in Sands Point and stole a safe, according to the felony complaint. Weeks later, Palta and Catalan stole $30,000 in watches and $8,000 in cash from a home on Pershing Avenue in Locust Valley, records show. Mendel-Perez and Rosas are also charged with "ransacking" the bedrooms of a home on Laurel Drive in Great Neck Estates, the complaint said.
The men were arrested at a Bronx motel in possession of the stolen items, prosecutors said.
In December, two Chilean nationals were caught in the act during the attempted break-in of a home in Saddle Rock. The men also had targeted homes in Manhasset, Woodbury, Great Neck, Munsey Park, Kings Point and Sands Point, officials 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, officials said.
Last month, Nassau police arrested three more members of the international burglary crew that allegedly struck up to a dozen homes in Hewlett, Great Neck and Saddle Rock. Two of the suspects were ordered held without bail because of outstanding fugitive warrants while a third was released without bail and ordered to be monitored electronically.