A Queens couple are believed to have burglarized at least 34 Nassau County homes since the beginning of the year — and others in New York City and New Jersey — stealing thousands of dollars in cash and jewelry before they were arrested while attempting to break into a house in Merrick, Nassau police said Tuesday.
Johana Gomez, 38, of 34th Street, Astoria, and her boyfriend Jorge Guevara, 36, of 56th Road, Bayside, carried on their spree for nearly a year, police said. She knocked on doors to make sure no one was home and he entered homes by pushing in back doors and entering through windows, but an astute sergeant zeroed in on a car in the area after one of the heists — evidence that ultimately led to their arrests with the help of license plate readers, police said.
“The key to cracking it was using the technology properly, using the intelligence properly, good detective surveillance work, but it all starts with a cop — a sergeant, in this case — doing her job and reporting what she sees back to the proper investigative unit,” said Det. Sgt. Patrick Ryder, the commanding officer of the department’s Asset Forfeiture and Intelligence Unit.
In all, Gomez and Guevara were each charged in at least 19 burglaries — but police believe they have committed at least 34 in the county — beginning in early January in Levittown and continuing steadily until Monday, when, under police surveillance, cops arrested them after they attempted to break into a Merrick home, Ryder said.
Detectives seized the car the couple were arrested in — a Lexus — and a Maroon Altima also believed to be the getaway car in some of the heists. Investigators also recovered jewelry — believed to be proceeds from some of the heists — in searches of Gomez’s and Guevara’s homes after their arrests. Police now will have the painstaking process of matching the stolen items to the rightful owners and returning the property.
“It has sentimental value,” said Ryder. “If we can return it, it’s a huge victory for us.”
Neither Guevara nor Gomez was arraigned Tuesday, according to a spokesman for the Nassau district attorney’s office. Police said Guevara was charged with 20 counts of second-degree burglary, three counts of second-degree attempted burglary and one count of third-degree burglary. Gomez was charged with 19 counts of second-degree burglary, three counts of second-degree attempted burglary and one count of third-degree burglary, police said.
It was unclear whether Gomez and Guevara had defense attorneys. Gomez does not have a prior criminal record, but Guevara has been arrested in the past on gun and burglary charges, Ryder said.
In one of the burglaries, police later discovered by watching surveillance video from outside of the burglarized home, Gomez brought her young child — less than 10 years old — to the heist, Ryder said. The child is now staying with grandparents, he said.
“She takes the kid up the driveway, she does the knock on the door, she leaves, and then he goes in and does the burglary, the boyfriend,” Ryder said.
The department’s Burglary Pattern Team, created in mid-January as residential burglaries were on the rise, was key to cracking this case, said Ryder, which investigators initially thought was three different patterns because the suspects used different vehicles.
The burglary team has since made a substantial dent in residential burglaries, which are down across the county 10.25 percent this year through Sunday when compared with last year, department statistics show. Commercial burglaries also are down almost 2 percent in the same time period, the statistics show.
Details on the heists in New Jersey and New York City, for which police believe Gomez and Guevara are responsible, were not available Tuesday, police said, citing the ongoing investigation.
After the first burglaries in Nassau were committed in January and February, detectives canvassed the areas where they occurred, and a witness reported seeing a white Mercedes in the area at the time of the burglary, police said. Investigators found video surveillance showing a white Mercedes — with a team of a man and a woman — in the area near the time that two or three burglaries were committed, police said. Then the white Mercedes wasn’t spotted again in any of the burglaries and a black Mercedes emerged as a vehicle suspected to be involved in a spate of burglaries, police said.
But it wasn’t until a Second Precinct sergeant was working a burglary case and honed in on a maroon Nissan Altima near the scene. That vehicle’s license plate was similar to that of the white Mercedes, which had been sold earlier, police said. Using the department’s network of license plate readers, they were able to connect the suspect’s vehicles to the crimes — the Lexus that Gomez and Guevara were driving when they were arrested was the same license plate as that on the white Mercedes, police said.
Ryder said he couldn’t say how long the pair had been under surveillance by detectives, but on Monday as they tried to burglarize a home on Foxglove Road in Merrick about noon — using their same method of operation, with Gomez first knocking on the door and Guevara making entry — they were arrested.
“They definitely did have a good scheme going, but good police work, good intelligence trumped it,” Ryder said.
Burglary pattern since January:
Jan. 6 – Pasture Lane, Levittown
Jan. 8 – Margaret Road, North Massapequa
Jan. 28 - Two homes, on Bloomingdale Road and on Blue Spruce Road, both in Levittown
Feb. 11 – Vine Court, Carle Place
March 3 – Crome Road, Syosset
March 14 – Friends Lane, Westbury
April 14 – Friends Lane, Westbury
April 26 – Two homes, on Cornflower Road, Levittown; and Dorset Avenue, Albertson
April 29 – Bark Lane, Levittown
May 2 — Lincoln Street, Seaford
June 2 – Feather Lane, East Williston
June 8 – Wheatley Avenue, East Williston
June 9 – Choir Lane, Westbury
June 16 – East Cypress Lane, Westbury
July 8 – Grand Blvd, Westbury
Sept. 29 – South Bismark Avenue, North Bellmore
Oct. 17 – Red Maple Drive South, Wantagh
Oct. 21 Hudson Street, Farmingdale
Nov. 7 – Foxglove Road, Merrick (attempted entry)