Police have arrested five men whom they say are the splash-and-dash crew responsible for breaking into more than 60 groceries, 99-cent stores, delis, and pizzerias throughout southern Brooklyn, and covering their tracks using a method cops say was inspired by the Ben Affleck film “The Town.”
The suspects — one of whom lives up the block from the 68th Precinct in Bay Ridge — allegedly stole more than $200,000 during the burglaries, which began in August, 2010.
Investigators said the group, including 26-year-old Amaurys Hernandez, 31-year-old Andy Lopez, 24-year-old Roy Gonzalez, 29-year-old Miquel Colon, and a fifth suspect who was already in Riker’s Island on an unrelated criminal charge, would break into stores through back and side entrances in the middle of the night and loot ATMs and cash registers.
To erase any traces of DNA, they would douse anything they touched with bleach — a trick the suspects said they learned from the bank robbery movie staring Affleck and Jeremy Renner.
Yet their attorneys say this is a fiction.
“It’s absurd,” said Nicole Bellina, who is representing Colon. “This doesn’t have anything to do with that movie.”
But businesses owners who opened up their stores the next morning and be greeted with the piercing smell of bleach disagree.
“[The thieves] took my whole back door off,” Isaiah Flores, who owns Friends Pizza and Cafe on Seventh Avenue in Sunset Park, told reporters. Police say the thieves raided Friend’s Pizza on June 6. “Then they smashed the ATM, covered everything with bleach and took $6,000. I’ve worked so hard to get this kind of money.”
Police say the thieves would cut electrical wires to the businesses — knocking out any alarms — and would raid the place wearing masks topped with miner’s head lamps so they could see what they’re doing.
The heists began in Sunset Park — where two of the thieves lived — but quickly spread to Bay Ridge and Bensonhurst, police said. The thieves then spread out further, hitting Sheepshead Bay and Midwood.
Some of the high stakes thefts (just a tenth, of course) included:
• A 99-cent store on New Utrecht Avenue near 69th Street in Bensonhurst. The thieves entered the store through a rear window on Sept. 29, 2010 and raided an ATM.
• A deli on 15th Avenue near 69th Street. The crooks kicked in the rear door on Oct. 1, 2010, broke into an ATM and ran off with cash and a carton of cigarettes.
• Bay Ridge Farm on Fifth Avenue near 80th Street in Bay Ridge on Nov. 7, 2010. The thieves entered, removed cash and stole cigarettes.
• An Avenue U deli near E. 22nd Street in Sheepshead Bay. The crew entered through a rear door on June 19, fleeing with an unknown amount of property.
• A grocery on Third Avenue near 84th Street in Bay Ridge. The thieves propped up a roll-down security gate to get inside, but only made off with $16.
• A deli on Church Avenue near E. 7th Street in Flatbush. Thieves broke in on Sept. 25, emptied an ATM and a cash register — and ran away with the store’s juke box!
Prosecutors said each suspect admitted to committing some of the crimes, but not all.
The five suspects were arraigned on multiple counts of burglary and criminal mischief. Their bail ranged between $75,000 to $750,000 for each suspect — high, but not high enough for District Attorney Charles Hynes, who asked for $1 million for Gonzalez, who had been linked to 28 of the burglaries.
Bellina said her client, like the other defendants, plan to fight the charges.
“The DA is still investigating, so we will see what they come up with,” she said.
Reach reporter Thomas Tracy at email@example.com or by calling (718) 260-2525.