Shaun Collins, a former heroin drug addict, punched a 91-year-old...

Shaun Collins, a former heroin drug addict, punched a 91-year-old woman and robbed her, police said. (July 24, 2008) Credit: Newsday File / Viorel Florescu

A man who police said is homeless was arrested in connection with a string of drugstore robberies, including one at an East Northport Rite Aid last week where a 91-year-old cashier was punched in the chest, Suffolk police said.

Shaun Collins, 34, was arrested by Nassau police in connection with a robbery of a Hicksville Walgreens Friday - just a day after the East Northport robbery and after the February robbery of a Bellmore Rite Aid, police said.

The East Northport cashier, Flo Critelli, said Suffolk detectives alerted her Sunday that the man who punched her Thursday had been nabbed.

"I'm happy they caught him because this way he can't do it again," she said Monday. "I heard he did it to another woman the next day. He pushed her to the ground but she closed his hands in the drawer. After he tried to steal from me, that's what I thought I should have done."

Collins was profiled in a Newsday article where he admitted to being a drug addict and that he had shoplifted to support his $200 to $300 daily habit.

In the July 27, 2008, story, he said he had been clean for 17 months, and he feared the psychological pain of his misdeeds more than heroin withdrawal.

"You have to think about the things you've done," he said. "The people you've hurt, the crime you've done."

His criminal activity dates back at least to his years as a Brentwood High School student and includes multiple arrests for petty larceny, grand larceny, robbery, menacing and drug possession. After serving more than a year in prison after a grand larceny conviction in 2007, Collins was released on parole in May 2008.

Police said the method was the same in most of the recent drugstore robberies.

On Thursday, Collins went into the Rite Aid in East Northport where he used a $1 bill to pay for an Easter marshmallow candy that cost 54 cents, and punched Critelli in the chest when she opened the register and took money, police said.

Around 12:55 p.m. Friday, Collins entered a Hicksville Walgreens, placed candy on the counter and gave the cashier $2, Nassau police said. As the cashier opened the register for change, he lunged over the counter, pushed the cashier, grabbed money and fled in a stolen vehicle, police said.

On Feb. 26, Collins went into the Rite Aid in Bellmore and paid the cashier 75 cents for candy and grabbed money when she opened her register, police said.

He was also connected with the robbery of a Miller Place Rite Aid on Feb. 19 and a grand larceny March 6, police said.

Collins was being held at Nassau County jail after his arrest Saturday, and was charged with third-degree robbery, criminal possession of stolen property and petty larceny. Charges for the Suffolk robberies are pending.

"I'm just relieved they got him," said Critelli. "He must have been desperate. But you can't do that."

With Zachary R. Dowdy, Bill Mason and Deborah Morris

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