NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James announced the convictions of six members of a crew responsible for over 200 burglaries of car dealerships, cellular phone stores, and ATM businesses located in the Lower Hudson Valley, New York City, and on Long Island. The crew of Willie Baines, Josepher Cartagena, Brandon Collazo-Rivera, Justin Herrera, Douglas Noble, and Alexander Santiago, all of Bronx County, allegedly stole cars, cellular phones, merchandise, and cash valued at more than $3 million, including at least 54 vehicles. The convictions were the result of a 13-month joint investigation by the Office of the Attorney General’s (OAG) Organized Crime Task Force (OCTF), the New York City Police Department’s (NYPD) Auto Crime Unit, and 29 local and county police departments.
“The six individuals convicted and sentenced went on a crime spree that impacted businesses and residents throughout downstate New York,” said Attorney General James. “These burglars left a trail of broken glass, smashed businesses, and dangerous high-speed chases in their wake. I thank my partners in local law enforcement for their coordination and support as we took down this dangerous crew. Our communities are safer now that these six individuals have been brought to justice.”
“This is one of those cases that highlights the extraordinary cooperation across multiple police departments and agencies in the New York Metropolitan area,” said NYPD Police Commissioner Edward A. Caban. “The NYPD Auto Crime Unit is proud to have worked with the New York State Attorney General and all the other departments involved in bringing this brazen burglary crew to justice.”
During the 13-month investigation, the theft crew was connected to over 200 commercial burglaries in 11 downstate counties, including Nassau County, Suffolk County, Queens County, Kings County, Richmond County, Bronx County, Rockland County, Westchester County, Orange County, Putnam County, and Dutchess County, in addition to burglaries in Connecticut and New Jersey. The six individuals, Willie Baines, Josepher Cartagena, Brandon Collazo-Rivera, Justin Herrera, Douglas Noble, and Alexander Santiago stole cars, cellular phones, merchandise, and cash valued at more than $3 million, including at least 54 vehicles. The investigation revealed that members of the theft crew would travel to neighborhoods that contained several car dealerships and cell phone stores, often burglarizing several stores in one night. In the automobile dealership burglaries, members of the crew would smash the large windows at the front of the building, locate boxes in the dealership that contained key fobs, and then drive vehicles they were able to start right through the broken windows. In the cell phone and ATM store burglaries, members of the crew would smash the glass front doors, enter the stores’ showrooms and offices, and steal as much merchandise and cash as they could carry out.
The theft crew would often wait for the police to respond to a burglary alarm, and then engage in high-speed chases from the crime scene which posed additional risks for law enforcement and the surrounding community. This behavior led law enforcement to dub the investigation “Operation Redline” in reference to the redline on speedometers and the extreme speeds the burglars would achieve as they fled crime scenes. Investigators from OCTF and NYPD were able to identify the six individuals charged in the case through the review of video surveillance recordings, data from cellular telephones, license plate reader data, and information provided by numerous county and local police departments. A search of the residences of two of the individuals led to the recovery of thousands of dollars in stolen cell phones and key fobs from car dealerships. Additionally, several of the defendants posted photographs on various social media outlets posing with some of the stolen vehicles, and displaying large quantities of cash. Many of the social media posts occurred just minutes after the crimes, allowing investigators to connect the stolen property seen in the posts to specific burglaries and defendants.
The six defendants were charged with various counts of Grand Larceny in the Second Degree (Class C felony), Grand Larceny in the Third Degree (Class D felony), and Burglary in the Third Degree (Class D felony). All of the defendants have pled guilty to felony charges and all of the individuals received prison sentences. The defendants and their convictions are listed below:
• Josepher Cartagena, 27, pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.
• Brandon Collazo-Rivera, 26, pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.
• Douglas Noble, 29, pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.
• Alexander Santiago, 28, pled guilty to Grand Larceny in the Second Degree.
• Justin Herrera, 23, pled guilty to Burglary in the Third Degree.
• Willie Baines, 47, pled guilty to Attempted Burglary in the Third Degree.
The charges in the indictments were the result of a joint investigation by OAG’s OCTF and NYPD’s Auto Crime Unit. In addition, Attorney General James would like to thank Nassau County District Attorney Anne T. Donnelly and U.S. Attorney for the District of Connecticut Vanessa Roberts Avery for their valuable participation in this investigation.
The investigation involved the cooperation of numerous local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, and Attorney General James acknowledges the work of the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Safe Streets Task Force, New Haven, Connecticut and Westchester County, New York Field Offices, and the Eastern District of New York and District of Connecticut U.S. Marshal Service. Attorney General James also thanks her partners in local law enforcement for their close coordination, including the Nassau County Police Department, Suffolk County Police Department, Westchester County Police Department, Amityville Police Department, Floral Park Police Department, Blauvelt Police Department, Village of Hempstead Police Department, Yonkers Police Department, Mount Pleasant Police Department, New Rochelle Police Department, White Plains Police Department, Greenburgh Police Department, Tarrytown Police Department, Mamaroneck Police Department, Orangetown Police Department, Clarkstown Police Department, Ramapo Police Department, Spring Valley Police Department, Ramsey Police Department, Newburgh Police Department, Washingtonville Police Department, Chester Police Department, New Windsor Police Department, and Poughkeepsie Police Department. Additionally, Attorney General James thanks police departments from New Jersey for their coordination in this investigation, including the Hackensack Police Department, Passaic Police Department, Denville Police Department, and Eatontown Police Department.
The investigation was jointly led by NYPD Auto Crime Unit’s Detective Brian DeMasi and OCTF Detectives Luis Flores and David Walsh. Detective DeMasi is under the supervision of Sergeant John Hansen, and the overall supervision of Inspector Robert LaPollo. Detectives Flores and Walsh are under the supervision of Supervising Detective Bradford Miller and the overall supervision of Deputy Chief Andrew Boss. The OAG Investigations Division is led by Chief Investigator Oliver Pu-Folks.
The case was being prosecuted by OAG OCTF Assistant Deputy Attorney General James Cudden, with the assistance of former Legal Support Analyst Santiago Molina, under the supervision of Downstate OCTF Deputy Chief Lauren Abinanti. Nicole Keary is the Deputy Attorney General in Charge of OCTF. The Division for Criminal Justice is led by Chief Deputy Attorney General José Maldonado and overseen by First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.