In this file photo, Suffolk DA Tom Spota speaks to...

In this file photo, Suffolk DA Tom Spota speaks to the media, March 29, 2010. Credit: Photo by Joseph D. Sullivan

Labeling targets "papi," a man and woman beat, robbed and threatened several Hispanic men, Suffolk officials said Tuesday in charging the pair with felony hate crimes.

Felicia Smith of Selden and Sean "Taz" Allen of Middle Island, both 19, told officials after their arrests last month that they believed Hispanics made good robbery targets because they were often drunk and spoke limited English.

"We always picked Hispanic males because they are easy to rob and most likely will not call the police because they are illegal," said Smith, according to her signed statement to Suffolk police.

The 30-count indictment unsealed Tuesday in a Riverhead courtroom accuses them and four others of attacking and robbing nine people between December and last month. Eight of the alleged victims were Hispanic, Suffolk District Attorney Thomas Spota said. The ninth was mistaken for Hispanic, officials said.

Smith later said the money went for drugs, gas and food, and that she "can't remember" how many people were robbed, according to her statement.

Smith and Allen pleaded not guilty at their arraignments in Riverhead Tuesday to robbery and conspiracy as hate crimes. They were each held on $125,000 cash bail.

Four others believed to have been involved in two attacks - Barbara Monaco, 19, of Selden; Sammie Darby Jr., 31, of Mastic Beach; Christopher Douglin, 21, of Selden; and Joshua Rivera, 19, of Rocky Point - pleaded not guilty Tuesday to felony robbery and conspiracy charges. They were held on bail ranging from $500 to $700,000.

Smith's and Allen's arrests on March 12 came just days before the start of the Jeffrey Conroy trial, which shone a spotlight on recent violence against Hispanics.

Spota took responsibility Tuesday for the delay in publicizing the robbery spree, saying he did so to avoid influencing the jury considering the Conroy case.

Conroy, 19, of Medford, was convicted Monday of manslaughter as a hate crime in the 2008 stabbing death of Ecuadorean immigrant Marcelo Lucero in Patchogue. "I could tell you for absolute certainly that the defense attorney would have been making motions for a mistrial," Spota said.

Of Tuesday's charges, Lucero's brother, Joselo, said, "That's really sad that something like that continues."

Officials Tuesday described a series of violent attacks in Centereach, Port Jefferson and Port Jefferson Station on lone men. In one case in February, Smith swung the door of a moving car to knock a man off a bicycle before robbing him, officials said. In another attack that month, Smith told officials Allen "struck" a man with a kitchen knife before taking his cell phone, a Suffolk district attorney spokesman said.

In her statement, Smith said she drove her car with Allen as a passenger as they picked out victims. Some of the victims were beaten and robbed. Officials said the pair also brandished a BB gun. In one instance, a man was hit in the head with a hammer.

At the time of his arrest, Allen was carrying a knife and marijuana, and had a pending misdemeanor weapons charge from February for carrying metal knuckles, according to a DA spokesman.

Spota said these incidents had "startling similarities" to events in Patchogue and Medford in 2008 in which attacks on Hispanics preceding Lucero's death went unreported.

Suffolk Police Commissioner Richard Dormer said all but one of the victims quickly made reports, and that the case "proved [victims] were going to call police." Dormer said Spota made the decision to delay releasing information about the attacks and added that "victims would go underground" if the alleged robbery spree had been publicized.

Smith was represented by a Legal Aide attorney. Allen's attorney, Paul Barahal, didn't return a call Tuesday. Monaco's lawyer, Christopher Zeh, said his client hasn't been in trouble before. Attorneys for other defendants didn't return messages or declined to comment.

With Keith Herbert and Bart Jones

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