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DA: Brentwood teen charged with hate crimes in 'burglaries'

A Brentwood teenager who allegedly robbed three Queens men and burglarized their homes was indicted on hate crime charges Monday because of the age of his victims -- 92, 91 and 77 -- prosecutors said.

Justin Frank, 18, was arraigned on an 18-count indictment charging him with first- and second-degree robbery and first- and second-degree burglary as hate crimes, Queens District Attorney Richard Brown said.

Frank and his accomplices -- who have yet to be charged -- robbed and burglarized their victims in a two-hour span on Aug. 28, prosecutors said.

Frank, who faces up to 25 years in prison if convicted, was ordered held on $250,000 bail. He is scheduled to return to court on April 17.

Brown's office said in a news release that Frank is being charged under provisions of New York State's Hate Crimes Act of 2000, which says enhanced charges can be filed when a defendant is alleged to have picked a victim because of their disability and/or age.

Frank's attorney, Jason Russo, of Uniondale, said the indictment is "nonsense."

"My guy is a kid who was duped by some other guys he was hanging around with, basically used him," Russo said. "He was hanging around with these guys who were allegedly contractors going to get jobs. He never even got out of the car."

But Brown said Frank "is alleged to have participated in three burglaries in which the victims were targeted because of their ages." He called Frank's alleged acts of preying on defenseless men "truly despicable."

In each case, prosecutors allege Frank and others entered the victims' homes and took cash and other valuables.

The 91-year-old victim was in his driveway in Flushing when one of the attackers claimed to be a former neighbor, according to court papers. He asked to be allowed into the victim's house to write down his new address so that the victim could visit.

Prosecutors said Frank picked up an envelope while inside the house -- presumably to write down his new address. The other men pushed and slapped the victim and threatened to kill him, then took his cellphone, cash from his pocket, and his eyeglasses, prosecutors said.

About two hours later, a 92-year-old Woodside man was taking out the trash when he was approached by men who stated they were from the water company and needed to check a broken pipe, prosecutors said. The men then pushed their way into the living room, where Frank and others allegedly took money from the victim's living room, pushed him to the floor and fled the house.

A few minutes later and a few blocks away, a man, 77, was home with his wife when men knocked on his door and claimed to have done work for him years earlier.

Frank allegedly asked for a glass of water and blocked the victim at his refrigerator while the other men wandered around the house.

After they left the house, the victim checked his wallet -- which was on the dining room table -- and noticed it had been moved and that money was missing from it, prosecutors said.

Frank's fingerprints were a match to the fingerprint left on the envelope in the first incident, prosecutors said, and the fingerprint left on the water glass in the third incident, authorities said.

Russo said Frank lives with his grandfather and wanted to get handyman jobs: "He was trying to work. That's all he was trying to do."

With Ellen Yan

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