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Hempstead man arrested in knife-point robberies held without bail

Khalif House, 24, leaves Nassau Police headquarters on

Khalif House, 24, leaves Nassau Police headquarters on Thursday, June 9, 2016. House, who is accused by police of committing as many as 27 robberies on Long Island in Queens since Feb. 1, was ordered held without bail at his arraignment Thursday afternoon on a federal charge of conspiracy to obstruct commerce by robbery. Credit: Howard Schnapp

The Hempstead man accused of committing more than two dozen knife-point robberies had a pair of mismatched gloves in his possession when he was arrested — gloves that appear to match what the robber wore in some of the heists, prosecutors said.

Khalif House, 24, arrested Wednesday in Floral Park after an hourslong manhunt and accused by police of committing as many as 27 robberies in Nassau, Suffolk and Queens since Feb. 1, was ordered held without bail at his arraignment late Thursday afternoon on a federal charge of conspiracy to obstruct commerce by robbery.

It’s unclear how many of the robberies House will be charged with, but his girlfriend — Lisette Veltri, 24 of Valley Stream — alleged by authorities to have been his getaway driver in some robberies, identified House in still frames from video surveillance in four of the robberies, according to a criminal complaint. Prosecutors have 30 days to get an indictment.

Magistrate Judge A. Kathleen Tomlinson cited the glove evidence, the use of a knife and the suspect’s ability to elude police as her reasoning to not offer bail.

“The strength of the government’s case appears extensive at this point,” Tomlinson said at the arraignment hearing in U.S. District Court in Central Islip.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Mark Misorek said surveillance video of some of the robberies showed the suspect wearing a light-colored glove and a dark-colored glove, matching the gloves found on House at the time of his arrest. Misorek said House also had two dark-colored doo-rags.

On Tuesday night — about 12 hours before House was arrested — authorities said House tried to rob a dollar store in College Point, Queens, but was thwarted by a female employee who “resisted by punching and kicking,” according to the criminal complaint. The suspect fled.

The attempted robbery was caught on surveillance video and showed the suspect was wearing a “black doo-rag over the lower portion of his face. . . . [and] a light colored glove on his right hand and a dark colored glove on his left hand,” according to the criminal complaint.

Misorek called House “both a risk of flight and a danger to the community” in his argument against bail and cited the glove and doo-rag evidence, the robber’s possession of a large knife while committing the robberies and the fact he evaded authorities for months.

Tuesday’s attempted robbery set off a course of events that resulted in the arrest of House on Wednesday morning. About 15 minutes after the thwarted robbery, House was spotted by NYPD officers from the 105th Precinct near a Dunkin’ Donuts on Hillside Avenue in Queens. But House fled on foot, police said.

Cops found Veltri in a 2015 silver Honda Accord, a vehicle Nassau police had said was likely involved in at least some of the robberies, a few blocks away. She ultimatley identified House, who fled to Floral Park and broke into a 75-year-old man’s house to hide, police said.

House was arrested after he was found “hiding inside a red Ford Econoline van” in a Floral Park parking lot, the criminal complaint said.

House’s court-appointed attorney, Murray Singer, did not request a bail package, but reserved his right to in the future.

“It’s my understanding his family is concerned about his well-being because of the unfortunate circumstances he finds himself in,” Singer, whose practice is in Port Washington, said outside of court.

Singer, who did not enter a plea on behalf of his client, and was not required to do so, requested the judge order House receive medical attention for “detox.” He later said his client has an apparent heroin addiction, which police said was the motivation for the heists.

Tomlinson told the defense attorney: “I’m indicating he’s in substantial need of detox services.”

House will be held at the Nassau County jail, officials said during the hearing. His attorney had asked for House to be held at the federal detention center in Brooklyn. When asked why that was his preference, Singer said: “Because nobody wants to be at the Nassau County jail,” referencing the facility’s recent troubles, including the death of three inmates in a year and investigations into the quality of medical care provided there.

Veltri is accused of assisting House in seven to 10 of the robberies by serving as the getaway driver, according to a criminal complaint.

Veltri identified House to police from surveillance photos from the robberies and an earlier NYPD mug shot, according to the criminal complaint. She was arraigned Wednesday on charges of interfering with interstate commerce by robbery. She has no prior criminal record and was released after posting a $150,000 bond.

House, wearing an orange jumpsuit in court Thursday, spoke frequently to his attorney throughout the hearing and answered a series of questions regarding whether he understood the proceedings from the judge by saying: “yes.”

As he left the courtroom, he waved and blew a kiss to his mother and aunt. Both left court without commenting.

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