Five Chilean nationals who authorities say are part of an organized crime cell that burglarized homes on Nassau's Gold Coast have denied taking part in the theft ring.
A grand jury recently indicted the defendants on burglary and attempted burglary charges after recent break-ins in Sands Point, Locust Valley and Glen Cove, court records show.
The defendants pleaded not guilty in arraignments Monday and Tuesday in Nassau County Court while participating via video conference from the East Meadow jail, a setup in place because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Law enforcement officials have identified them as: Bayron Cruz-Palta, 26; Fabian Lopez-Catalan, 20; William Medel-Perez, 23; Juan Hernandez-Rosas, 25; and Amaro Rosas-Rosas, 23.
“These alleged members of a Chilean crime syndicate allegedly burglarized three homes, stealing tens of thousands in property, and attempted to burglarize a fourth before they were apprehended,” Nassau District Attorney Madeline Singas said Tuesday in a statement, adding that law enforcement officials worked diligently “to stop this crime spree.”
Judges set the defendants’ bail at $100,000 bond or $20,000 cash, along with a partially secured bail bond option of 10% of $100,000.
But Lopez-Catalan’s lawyer, Jeffrey Groder, said he plans to challenge the decision to set bail.
Rosas-Rosas’ attorney, Christopher Devane, Medel-Perez’s attorney, Maureen McBride, Hernandez-Rosas' attorney, Mitchell Barnett, and lawyer Greg Madey, who represents Cruz-Palta, said they’re considering the same action.
Burglary is cited under new reform legislation as a felony that qualifies a person for no-bail release. A recent appellate decision involving the Nassau district attorney’s office and a different client of Groder’s also affirmed bail in a case where the defendant faced an attempted burglary charge — which isn’t cited in the legislation.
However, Groder said the attempted burglary charge against his client in this case relates to the same instance in which his client faces a burglary charge. He claimed prosecutors added the charge “where it’s not supported by the evidence just for the sake of holding him in jail.”
Before the indictments, only two of the defendants had faced charges for which bail could be set but a judge ordered all five held without bail anyway, Newsday previously reported.
Prosecutor Anne Donnelly said that day that the defendants posed “an especially strong risk of flight.” She said they told their arresting officers their handler had recruited them to burglarize New York homes, telling them the risk of jail was low because of bail reform measures.
Donnelly said the crew is part of a criminal outfit that sends Chileans to New York, California and other parts of the United States on tourist visas to carry out burglaries before proceeds are sent back to their ringleader.
One of the two indictments in this case alleges Lopez-Catalan and Cruz-Palta attempted and carried out a burglary on March 4 on Pershing Avenue in Locust Valley.
The other indictment alleges Medel-Perez and Rosas-Rosas attempted and carried out a burglary on March 4 on Southfield Road in Glen Cove. It also accuses them and Hernandez-Rosas of attempting and committing a burglary on Feb. 12 on Cedar Lane in Sands Point.
Barnett said he was filing a motion asking for the dismissal of Hernandez-Rosas' charges because he’d been unable to discuss with him before the indictment whether he wanted to testify before the grand jury “due to the public health emergency” involving coronavirus and “the resulting lack of access to the defendant” in jail. McBride said she planned a similar filing for her client.