Two Chilean nationals caught in the act during the attempted break-in of a home in exclusive Saddle Rock are probably part of an international burglary ring using 90-day travel visas to the United States to commit crimes, Nassau County police said Thursday.
The suspects, Bryan Alexis Farias Luna, 28, of Puente Alto, Chile, and Isaias Antonio Lienlaf Donoso, 35, of Santiago, were taken into custody at 5:38 p.m. Tuesday at the home on Melville Lane, police said.
Each faces a charge of second-degree burglary, authorities said, and additional charges are possible.
“Although major crime and residential burglaries are at historic lows in Nassau County, the recent arrests of defendants Luna and Donoso from Chile will further aide in decreases," Nassau Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder said in a statement. "This burglary crew comes in from out of the country and preys on our residents."
Police and other local officials have said that since at least November — when the home of Saddle Rock Mayor Dan Levy was burglarized, and items, including more than $100,000 worth of collectible coins, were stolen — investigators have tied the ring to a string of similar residential break-ins across several high-end North Shore neighborhoods. In addition to Saddle Rock, other communities targeted were Manhasset, Woodbury, Jericho, Great Neck, Munsey Park, Kings Point and Sands Point, authorities said.
The "multi-jurisdictional investigation" is "one of our highest priorities," Ryder said. The investigation has so far involved canine, aviation, marine and tactical units, as well as undercover officers from the Major Case Squad and Burglary Squad, said Nassau Police Det. Lt. Richard LeBrun.
The NYPD is also taking part, Nassau police said, but they did not identify other agencies involved.
Local officials said they have been informed by police investigators that the Long Island ring may be part of a larger operation involving similar-type burglaries in other states.
"I was told they fly in and rent high-end cars so they fit into the neighborhoods," said Plandome Heights Mayor Kenneth C. Riscica, noting that while there have been no residential burglaries in his village connected to the ring, one was reported just across Webster Avenue in Manhasset.
"They're targeting high-net-worth ZIP codes," Riscica said, adding that he has emailed residents advising them to be vigilant
Levy said he has alerted his Saddle Rock constituents to take precautions.
"I've sent a note to residents: Make sure your alarms are on, lock your doors, don't treat it casually," the mayor said
Levy said he first contacted the Sixth Precinct after burglars hit his home between 8 and 9 p.m. Nov. 2.
While police have not released some details, citing the continuing investigation, LeBrun made it clear investigators believe the arrest of the two men Tuesday night is only the beginning.
Farias Luna was scheduled for arraignment Thursday at Nassau University Medical Center in East Meadow. Nassau police did say what prompted Farias Luna to be treated at the hospital. Records indicate Lienlaf Donoso appeared Wednesday in First District Court in Hempstead for arraignment and was ordered held on $50,000 bond or $25,000 cash bail, which was not posted.
Attorney information was not available for either man. Records show Lienlaf Donoso is due back in court Friday.
The NYPD has not commented on the arrests or the ongoing investigation.
Levy said he is aware of at least two residential burglaries in Saddle Rock, as well as the thefts of three vehicles and other break-ins, since the Nov. 2 burglary of his home.
He said investigators told him they do not believe Farias Lunas and Lienlaf Donoso are the burglars who broke into his home but the method is consistent with crimes being investigated as part of the recent spree.
Police don't believe the vehicle thefts were the work of the Chilean-based ring and are instead being investigated as a separate, unrelated organized operation, LeBrun said.
The scene in Saddle Rock Tuesday night looked like something out of Hollywood, Lebrun said.
"They were able to actually catch these guys and it wasn't an easy trick," Levy said. "It was a scene from the movies. Canine, helicopter, marine units. Undercover. … They're treating it extremely seriously. They've had tactical units in night vision gear. They're doing everything they can."
Among the items taken from his home, Levy said, were those that belonged to his late father, including gold watches, cuff links and even the collectible gold coins put aside for the mayor's three children. None of the stolen items were insured, he said.
"I'm just happy to see Nassau County police are on top of it and I believe before long, they'll catch them all," Levy said. "It's like a sweater. Once you get the string and start pulling, it all comes unraveled."
With Antonio Planas