They could make a TV movie someday about the hapless group of New York City Police officers who pulled off a $1 million perfume heist from a Carlstadt warehouse only to get caught within weeks. And the stars of the film would be Adam Sandler, Chris Rock and the other guys from “Grown Ups.“
Real police could play the roles of local, county and federal investigators who assembled the case faster than most people can program their DVRs.
In one scene, a thief actually tries passing a note to another at the Hudson County Correctional Facility in Kearny, telling him to say the writer had nothing to do with the crime. (That part actually happened.)
These kinds of laughable details are part of a new indictment, unsealed today with the FBI‘s arrest of two more players in the Keystone Kops caper.
True police officers, who work hard, sacrifice their lives and, lately, live under a layoff sword being swung from Trenton, don’t find any of this funny. With guns involved, who knows what tragedy could have happened had something gone terribly wrong?
Five armed men burst into the InStyle USA warehouse off Moonachie Avenue in Carlstadt, waving guns and displaying NYPD-issued badges, a little after 6 o’clock the night of Feb. 9 — just before Valentine’s Day.
As first reported exclusively in CLIFFVIEW PILOT, the bandits herded the employees into the front office area, where they tied them with plastic cuffs. No one thought to take their cellphones, though.
Five box trucks pulled up, with 16 day laborers from the Bronx inside. They began loading hundreds of boxes of high-end perfume — some at upwards of $80 an ounce — onto rented trucks.
We’re talking Versace, Christian Dior, Giorgio Armani, BVLGARI, Hermes and D&G, among others.
Three trucks were already gone when a 911 call came in and law enforcement officers from several agencies — including the Bergen County SWAT team — converged on 700 Gotham Parkway.
Carlstadt cops grabbed a couple of the ringleaders at the scene, in addition to the day laborers, who were treated as witnesses and released.
Two others tried making a run for it. One of those scuffled with an officer, landing both in the hospital. The officer was released soon after for bruises he suffered after punching the suspect, who clocked him with a flashlight.
In less than a month, charges were being brought and grand jurors in Newark were hearing testimony from participants.
Amusing details tied the cops to the crimes, including that one of the officers used his own credit card to rent one of the trucks in Jersey City and then tried to report the plastic stolen a few days later, while another used his own driver‘s license after claiming his name was “Mike Smith.”
Two of them also brought their own cars to the warehouse after being told they couldn’t leave them at the rental lot.
NYPD officers Richard LaBlanca and Brian Checo (a patrolman all of his 25 years on the force) pleaded guilty in May, less than three months after the robbery, as did ex-NYPD cop Orlando Garcia.
The fourth officer involved, Kelvin L. Jones, was named, along with three accomplices, in the indictment unsealed today. He was already in custody, having been charged in the case last month.
Two new defendants, Danny Bannout and Luis Reyes, were arrested this morning by FBI agents and were brought to court in Newark.
The seven-count superseding indictment charges Jones (a/k/a “Mike Smith”) 28, of Yonkers; Bannout, 34, and Anselmo Jimenes, 30, both of Brooklyn, and Reyes, 28, of New York City, with “conspiring to obstruct interstate commerce by armed robbery and obstructing interstate commerce” in connection with the holdup. Each is also charged with conspiring to transport the perfume in interstate commerce from New Jersey to New York.
Jimenes, Checo, LeBlanca, Garcia, Bannout, Gabriel Vargas, and Luis R. Morales were all rounded up less than a month after the heist. Jones was charged on March 5 in a separate complaint. The new indictment adds Bannout as a co-conspirator in another heist with Jimenes out of North Brunswick.
The indictment says Jones, Danny Bannout, Reyes, and Jimenes began planning the Carlstadt heist last December, scoping out the place and renting two trucks. Jones and Reyes were with the group that held the employees hostage, while Jimenes stuck with the crew that loaded the trucks, federal authorities say.
Even with their plea bargains, the ringleaders are looking at serious time in federal prison — as much as 20 years, if the judge chooses the most extreme penalties, but at least 8 years, for sure. And the thing about federal sentencing is: Unlike in the state prison system, you serve the time, with maybe a month off for good behavior, if you’re lucky.
During Checo’s guilty plea last month, U.S. District Judge William Walls asked him: “Did you watch some stupid TV show thinking you could do this?”
“No sir,” Checo said.
“And you spent two years at John Jay [College of Criminal Justice]?” the judge asked.
“Yes sir,” the officer said.
“You didn’t do well there, did you?”