STATEN ISLAND — The "Ninja Burglar" who evaded capture for 10 years broke into more than 200 homes and took $4 million worth of cash and goods before he was finally arrested Tuesday, District Attorney Michael McMahon said.
Robert Costanzo, 46, a convicted rapist, was arrested and charged with burglary after three recent break-ins. Police linked him to more than 200 burglaries in Staten Island, New Jersey and Upstate New York, McMahon said.
"The public can remain confident, after really a long 10 years, that the burglary patterns known popularly as the 'Ninja Burglar' have come to an end," McMahon said.
McMahon said Costanzo confessed on video to the crimes — giving previously unreported details about the break-ins and other cases not publicly linked to the "Ninja Burglary" spree — and expects Constanzo to plea guilty for the crimes tomorrow.
Costanzo admitted to more than 100 burglaries committed in the borough — though investigators believe the number to be around 160 — but prosecutors could only charged him for three because of the statue of limitations, McMahon said.
From 2005 to 2015, Constanzo broke into the homes, usually while their owners were inside. He was wearing all black with his face covered, resembling a ninja, McMahon said.
"There's no question that he had an appearance that would resemble what we would consider a ninja, with a black hood that covered his face," McMahon said.
The nickname started after a 2007 burglary where a Dongan Hills resident said he came face to mask with a nunchuck-wielding burglar.
Costanzo did admit to knowing he was referred to as the "Ninja Bandit" and McMahon said he took pride in the name.
"There was certainly, sadly, some pride in that and some notoriety in having it," McMahon said.
Previous suspects have been linked to the "Ninja Burglary" spree — including a group of Albanian immigrants arrested for break-ins — but NYPD Inspector Joseph Veneziano said police continued investigating.
"The case was never closed to an arrest, now it is," he said.
Costanzo typically targeted homes in wealthier neighborhoods and usually swiped cash, jewelry, watches and designer handbags, McMahon said.
He would often get in through the second-floor or third-floor balcony of homes by taking a ladder from a neighborhood house, then returning it when he was done, the DA said.
Throughout the hundreds of homes he broke into, Costanzo never left any DNA trace except for a recent one in Connecticut, McMahon said.
He was almost caught breaking into an Emerson Hill home in 2008, but avoided police by hiding in the woods covered in leaves behind the Michael J. Petrides School, McMahon said.
In 2014, investigators heard about a burglar with a similar pattern in Saratoga Springs.
Police and the district attorney worked with their counterparts in other counties and eventually executed search warrants against Costanzo's home in February, McMahon said.
Costanzo was arrested Tuesday and charged with three counts of burglary at his Wednesday arraignment.
He could face between 3-and-a-half to 15 years in prison and will be back in court on Thursday, McMahon said.
Costanzo was previously convicted of rape in 1996, McMahon said.
His lawyer did not immediately respond to a request for comment.