LOCKPORT, N.Y. (WIVB) – A string of more than 30 burglaries across parts of 4 counties in Western New York might have been solved by the arrests of 4 men who are now in custody, say officials from a local multi-agency police task force.
Police say, the break-ins occurred over the last year: 33 residential burglaries and an armed robbery, with 21 taking place in Erie County, three in Niagara County, 10 in Genesee County, and one in the Town of Bennington in Wyoming County.
Niagara County Sheriff James Voutour said stolen items were valuable and easily handled, “That includes many pieces of jewelry, firearms, portable electronics, and other miscellaneous items–typical items taken in burglaries that could be fenced very easily.”
Under arrest are John Battaglia, 49, James Baglio, 48, Kyle Wade, 25, and Matthew Ratel, 42. The men are accused of stealing valuables that not only have a lot of monetary value, but intrinsic value as well, such as gold and silver.
Capt. Greg Savage of the Erie County Sheriff’s Office said authorities recovered more than 1,300 items believed to be stolen, but much more has already been fenced.
“These are irreplaceable family heirlooms, and a lot of these places, they realize what they are doing. They are taking this stuff in, a lot of it gets melted down literally before the people selling it are out the door.”
The 4 suspects face a total of 135 criminal accounts related to the burglaries, and more could be pending, after police from several agencies obtained a search warrant for an alleged “stash house” in North Tonawanda and kicked in the door.
Voutour said the suspects would target homes in isolated areas, and knew what to look for, “knock on the door and pose as a delivery person, a pizza guy, a cable guy–anything like that–just to see if anybody answers, and if somebody answers they generally will just find a way to get out of there very quickly.”
State Police Maj. Steven Nigrelli believes the burglary ring was closely tied to the use and sale of drugs.
“These people don’t work. They commit crimes, and these are crimes of opportunity where they are just kicking down doors, and stealing people’s hard earned products, goods, to sell for drugs, and that’s the bottom line.”
Police officials credited the Erie County Legislature for passing a pawn shop law that might slow these kinds of property crimes down in Western New York. The 4 suspects are being held at the Erie County Holding Center.