A Hempstead traffic stop for tinted windows led to the arrest of three Nassau men, two of whom police said Thursday stalked business owners and robbed them at gunpoint and knifepoint several times last month.
"It appeared they were following these individuals, targeting them as they left their businesses, assuming that they would have large amounts of cash on them," said Det. Sgt. John Giambrone, the Robbery Squad's commanding officer. "They would rush up on these people either at knifepoint or at gunpoint, announce the robbery and demand the proceeds."
No one was injured in the holdups and police would not say how much was taken.
Police pulled the men over on Fulton Avenue in Hempstead about 12:40 a.m. Wednesday for "heavy tinted windows." When the driver -- Selvin Esquivel, 33, of 571 Clinton St., Uniondale -- got paperwork from the glovebox, officers saw what turned out to be a gravity knife, Giambrone said. Police also saw the butt of a pellet gun sticking out of the front seat.
The men were arrested and Esquivel was charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, two counts of second-degree criminal possession of a forged instrument and several violations of vehicle and traffic law, police said.
Carlos Guzman-Lobo, 23, of 266 Wallace St., Freeport, and Fredy Cortez-Sandoval, 24, of 135 William St., Hempstead, were charged with third-degree criminal possession of a weapon, as well as three counts of first-degree robbery and false personation.
Cortez-Sandoval, 24, of 135 William St., Hempstead, was charged with fourth-degree criminal possession of a weapon, first-degree burglary and five counts of first-degree robbery.
Special Investigation Squad detectives made the "initial connection" between the two men and the robbery pattern, Giambrone said.
Police linked Cortez-Sandoval to five robberies and an occupied burglary, and Guzman-Lobo to three of the five robberies. Giambrone said detectives are trying to link them to others.
Police alleged that one or more of the men they arrested were involved in the following incidents: On Nov. 3 on Park Avenue in Uniondale, where an armed man "forced their way into a basement door" of a home, but encountered a homeowner and fled with nothing. On Nov. 22, robbers returned to the same home and stole money.
On. Nov. 9, someone robbed the owner of the Roosevelt Deli on Burr Avenue in Hempstead. The same day, someone robbed a bakery owner on Spencer Place in Hempstead. On Nov. 16, a Hempstead restaurant owner was robbed in North Merrick.At their Nassau County Court arraignments Thursday, Cortez-Sandoval, who was represented by a Legal Aid Society attorney, was held on a $650,000 cash bail or bond; Guzman-Lobo was held on a $400,000 bond or cash and Esquivel was held on a $15,000 bond or $7,500 cash, according to a district attorney's spokesman.
Steven Barnwell, a court-appointed attorney for Guzman-Lobo and Esquivel, said the men maintain their innocence.