QUEENS — Three Forest Hills cops received the Cop of the Month Award earlier this week for stopping a crime pattern in which three burglars broke into laundry rooms to steal cash from washing machines, the authorities said.
The suspects drilled holes in washing machines and stole change, said Capt. Thomas Conforti, commanding officer of the 112th Precinct at a recent community council meeting attended by Police Department Chief Philip Banks III.
In total, the suspects were linked to more than two dozen break-ins in Queens and Brooklyn, Conforti said.
The spree began on April 18, when the men broke into a building on Saunders Street in Rego Park, police said.
In most instances, the burglars broke into buildings in the middle of the night, stealing unspecified amount of cash from the machines. In some cases, they burglarized several buildings on the same night.
Conforti said there are about 350 buildings with laundry rooms in the 112th Precinct, which covers Forest Hills and Rego Park, and it was impossible to monitor all of them.
In the early hours of May 29, Conforti said, a plainclothes unit noticed one of the man whom they recognized from the surveillance images.
“When they apprehended him he had a bag with tools on him and he had a radio in his ear tuned to the 112th and 104th police scanner so if there was a 911 call he knew to get out of the area,” Conforti said.
The captain said the officers kept driving around the area for another hour and a half and spotted two other suspects going into a CVS pharmacy on Queens Boulevard. Cops stopped them soon after.
One of the suspects — Henry Thomas, 54, from Bedford-Stuyvesant, who seemed to be the "ring leader" — was charged with 11 burglaries in Forest Hills and Rego Park alone, Conforti said.
The suspects are also being investigated in connection to at least 7 similar break-ins in other parts of Queens, including Jackson Heights, Elmhurst, Flushing and Ozone Park, and a number of burglaries in Brooklyn, said Conforti who awarded the three officers — Ronald Mazzaglia, Thomas Daniele and Michelle Feldman — with the precinct's Cop of the Month citation.
Thomas, according to cops, had an extensive criminal history. He was on parole for burglary and was just released from prison last year, Conforti said.