Nassau County police have arrested a Maryland man who they say used a ruse to gain access to and burglarize a 79-year-old woman's Herricks home.
Frank Nicholas, 27, of White Marsh, Maryland, was arrested Wednesday and charged with second-degree burglary in the June 20 so-called "distraction burglary" in which police say he and an unknown person stole jewelry from the victim.
Nicholas was arraigned Thursday morning in First District Court in Hempstead, where he was ordered held on $75,000 cash bail or $100,000 bond. He's due back in court Oct. 9.
Detectives are investigating whether Nicholas may have been involved in two similar burglaries, in Westbury on June 20 and Syosset on June 19, Nassau Chief of Detectives Kevin Smith said at a news conference Thursday, adding that police are looking at whether Nicholas may have committed other burglaries as well.
"He may have hit people that don't even know they were hit," Smith said.
In the Herricks case, Nicholas, clad in a yellow work vest and construction hat, knocked on the victim's door about 12:40 p.m. claiming to be a National Grid worker, police said. Nicholas told the victim he needed to come in and check her water heater for a gas leak, police said.
Nicholas, who was in the woman's home for about 20 minutes, led her around the house, asking to check various areas for a leak, police said. Police believe Nicholas distracted the woman with the bogus inspection while an accomplice was upstairs in the victim's bedroom stealing from her jewelry box.
"People of this age are picked on for these crimes," said Smith, adding that police will look into whether Nicholas should be charged with a hate crime in the burglary targeting senior citizens.
With a combination of information from the victim, who Smith described as "pretty sharp," and "forensic evidence" that police declined to detail, Third Squad detectives identified Nicholas as a suspect.
Nicholas was being held at the Rikers Island jail on an unrelated charge when Nassau police took him into custody, Smith said.