By Danny Schrafel
While families paid their respects to deceased loved ones, three thieves paid themselves out of purses they stole from cars parked at a graveyard, Suffolk County police allege.
A Wheatley Heights man and a Huntington Station woman were among three people arraigned Friday in connection with nearly three dozen car break-ins during a six-week span, in which they allegedly stole from cars in graveyard, church and gym parking lots as well as library and post office lots across Suffolk County.
The alleged spree, which included incidents at three Melville gyms, came to an end on Jan. 15, when cops charged 23-year-old Inesha Stephan, of Huntington Station, with five counts of fourth-degree grand larceny in connection with five alleged break-ins at St. Charles Cemetery in East Farmingdale. Wheatley Heights’ Steven Glover, 26, was charged on 33 counts, and Sierra Green, 20, was arraigned on 26 charges.
Typically, police said, the alleged thieves would steal purses, pocket any cash inside and abandon the rest.
Det. Lt. Robert Edwards, the commanding officer of Suffolk County Police Department’s First Squad, described the suspects as those who “don’t care for the feelings of others” and are all about making easy money.
“I’d like to think people would have respect in situations like that,” Edwards said during a press conference Friday. “It’s enough to go visit someone at a grave site, and then to become a crime victim, it’s a little more insensitive than your average criminal is going to be.”
The arrests follow an apparent surge in smash-and-grab thefts from three Melville gyms since Nov. 29, some of which police attributed to two of the suspects Friday.
Police charged Glover in connection with three incidents at Planet Fitness located at 25 Ruland Road on Dec. 1 and one count tied to a Dec. 12 break-in at Blink Fitness, located at 121 Broadhollow Road, Second Squad Det. Sgt. Steven Bluethgen said Friday. Glover and Green are charged with four counts in relation to alleged break-ins at Eastern Athletic Club, located at 100 Ruland Road, he added.
Police statistics published in a Dec. 25 Half Hollow Hills Newspaper report showed that, from Nov. 29 to Dec. 16, there had been 17 criminal complaints for a combination of criminal mischief, grand larceny and petit larceny to Eastern Athletic, Planet Fitness and Blink Fitness.
Seven of those occurred on Dec. 16, in a 35-minute spree starting at 5:30 a.m. at Planet Fitness. There, police said someone broke into a 2008 Chevy Avalanche through the rear driver’s side door and stole a wallet containing multiple credit cards. They also hit a 2014 Infiniti at that time, getting in through a driver’s side window and snagging a pocketbook containing personal papers and a credit card.
Later, at 6 a.m., three more cars were broken into in the lot of Eastern Athletic Club, according to police. A wallet containing credit cards and paperwork was stolen from a 2007 Toyota Camry; a black gym bag and iPad were stolen from a 2014 Lexus; and a jacket was stolen from a 2012 Toyota Prius. All three incidents were reported at 6 p.m.; the suspects are believed to have gotten in by smashing a front window.
Edwards credited confidential sources for helping officers crack the case and said it’s possible that the suspects could face more charges. Police believe they were “involved in other crimes,” which Edwards would not elaborate on because of an ongoing investigation.
They’re also probing reports at neighboring cemeteries of similar incidents. There’s no indication that drugs were a factor in this series of alleged thefts, Edwards said.
“It’s just an easy way to get money without working for it,” he said, later noting the suspects were unemployed.
Police credited the arrests to a joint effort between First, Second, Third and Fourth Precinct detectives coordinated by the county’s Burglary Task Force.