A homeless heroin addict was charged Tuesday in a string of knifepoint store robberies — ending a 10-week crime spree that a prosecutor said “terrorized” Long Island after investigators zeroed in on the getaway car, police said.
Shane Cashmore, 31, who is homeless but last lived in Ronkonkoma, faces multiple counts of first-degree robbery in the spree, authorities said Tuesday after his arrest at a Carvel in Huntington Station in what was his 18th heist or attempted heist. No one was injured in any of the robberies.
Cashmore was assisted in at least some of the robberies by a Levittown couple — Paul Drab, 26, the getaway driver, and Julianna Pantaleone, 31, the car’s owner — who also have drug addictions and were arrested alongside Cashmore Monday night, authorities said.
“We have no doubt Mr. Cashmore was responsible for these 18 robberies,” Suffolk County Police Commissioner Timothy Sini said at a news conference outside the department’s Second Precinct in Huntington Tuesday morning. “We are glad to bring this spree to an end.”
As he was led out of the precinct, Cashmore apologized to his victims and when asked about his motivation for the crimes, proclaimed: “I’m a heroin addict.”
Key to solving the case, authorities said, was the sharp memory of a Nassau special operations officer, who recalled a prior drug arrest involving the vehicle that turned out to be the suspected getaway car in some of the heists.
“It was great police work,” said acting Nassau Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter. “It was critical to identifying the actual car and therefore making the arrests.”
Drab and Pantaleone, who live together on Blue Jay Lane, were each charged with first-degree robbery in the Carvel heist. Authorities said Drab will be charged with nine counts of first-degree robbery, including one attempt, and Pantaleone, who police said was “getting ready to inject herself with heroin before her arrest,” will be charged with four robbery counts in Nassau County.
Suffolk authorities say they’re still investigating, but it’s possible Drab and Pantaleone could face additional charges.
Pantaleone admitted to handing a knife to Cashmore right before Monday night robbery, prosecutors said, and Drab admitted to being the getaway driver Monday.
Nassau County District Attorney Madeline Singas said Cashmore, who was charged with eight counts of first-degree robbery in Suffolk, also will face first-degree robbery charges for each of the 10 robberies in her county.
In all of the hold-ups, the robber covered his face and brandished either a machete or a large knife, police said.
Cashmore faces a minimum of 5 years and a maximum of 25 if convicted, prosecutors said.
Police were able to arrest the suspects — who had evaded authorities since the spree began on Feb. 13 in at a Carvel in Copiague — after linking a grey 2006 Hyundai Tiburon to the spree, police said. One law enforcement source said the car was identified by examining data on license-plate readers and surveillance cameras.
“We had a really good description of a really rare car,” the source said, adding that the car has a moonroof and “unique bumper stickers.”
Police then got a court order to place a GPS tracking device on the Hyundai, the source said. Sini declined to comment when asked about the GPS.
The Hyundai, a distinct sports car with only about 200 models registered on Long Island, Brooklyn and Queens, was only manufactured between 1999 and 2008, Krumpter said.
After Nassau County Bureau of Special Operations Officer Hector Rentas was briefed on the vehicle’s description, the officer told detectives he remembered arresting Pantaleone on a heroin possession charge about a month earlier, police said. Drab was in the car at the time of that arrest, but Pantaleone claimed the drugs as hers, a source said.
Nassau police then surveilled the car for about two weeks until cops busted the three immediately after the Huntington Station Carvel robbery Monday night.
Police believe neither Pantaleone nor Drab was involved in the robbery of The Barn in Lake Ronkonkoma on Sunday and that the Hyundai wasn’t used, Krumpter said. After that robbery, Cashmore was dropped off in East Meadow and the three went to Ozone Park, Queens, police said. A source said it was likely a trip to buy drugs.
“We followed this car every morning when they got up and they went to scrap cans in order to support their heroin addictions,” Krumpter said. “We followed this car when the subject dropped off his girlfriend at work, we followed this car into New York City on multiple occasions.”
At their arraignments Tuesday in Suffolk County District Court in Central Islip, all three pleaded not guilty. Judge Gaetan Lozito ordered Cashmore held on $1.6 million bond or $800,000 cash bail and both Drab and Pantaleone had bail set at $750,000 bond or $300,000 cash.
Suffolk Assistant District Attorney James Chalifoux said in court that the arrests ended “a three- or four-month crime spree that has terrorized Long Island.”
Cashmore admitted to wielding a knife or machete and robbing eight Suffolk County businesses, Chalifoux said. Cashmore had a large knife on him and $80 in cash — his proceeds from the robbery at the Carvel about 9:40 p.m. Monday — when he was arrested, said Chalifoux, the deputy chief of Suffolk’s Major Crime Bureau.
Authorities did not comment on how much money was taken in the heists.
Cashmore’s attorney, Christopher Gioe, said prosecutors have not turned over any evidence indicating that his client had confessed. “My client does, in fact, maintain his innocence,” said Gioe, of Hauppauge.
Pantaleone’s court-appointed attorney, who declined to identify herself, said her client has worked at Best Market for the last two months.
“It is not reasonable to believe my client committed any crime. . . . There’s not even use . . . [of] a female pronoun” in court charging documents, the attorney said. The woman’s father came to court in support of his daughter, but declined to comment to reporters.
Steve Fondulis, a Port Jefferson-based attorney for Drab, said his client is unemployed but in the past had worked as a dog groomer. He said he had no paperwork indicating that his client had confessed.
“Everything in the felony complaint refers to somebody else,” Fondulis said. “The statement from the employee in the Carvel refers to and identifies someone else.”
Fondulis said his client has three misdemeanor convictions — but had never failed to appear in court. His convictions are for a drug charge in Queens and two petty larcenies.
Singas speaking at the news conference said small business owners on Long Island should be relieved. Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota did not attend the news conference.
“Over these several months and weeks, small business owners and workers at these small businesses have been on edge,” said Singas. “But today they can rest a little more peacefully. These people work for little wages. They work long hours. And they were afraid to go to work.’’
— With Lisa Irizarry and William Murphy