ASTORIA — A man who hacked into police radio frequencies and threatened to kill a police captain was among three men arrested for impersonating police officers and robbing seven different victims in the Queens and The Bronx, according to the NYPD.
The suspects — identified by police as Ricardo Torres, 29, Kevin Remache, 19, and Jay Peralta, 20 — donned uniforms and carried radios and flashlights during the robberies, and in three of the incidents, sprayed their victims in the face with an unknown substance.
Peralta, of Corona, was also linked to a series of unauthorized transmissions over police radio frequencies made on various dates between April and September, police said.
The messages included "phony calls for assistance by non-existent officers, a report of a pressure-cooker bomb in front of a residence, fake gun runs and threats against the lives of officers," according to John Miller, the NYPD's deputy commissioner of intelligence and counterterrorism.
Peralta's broadcasts included one in which he threatened to kill a police captain, said Miller, who did not identify the officer.
"We did extensive work through that captain's background about persons he may have arrested, former cases grudges and so on and found nothing to connect him to this case," Miller said.
"There was also a bomb threat involved in the same series of transmissions and a reference to a Walgreens in Times Square," he added.
The three men first struck on Sept. 8, when they exited a white van on East 135th Street in Port Morris just before 1 a.m. and approached a 33 year-old man. They showed him a fake shield and told the victim he was wanted for robbery and assault, according to authorities.
Then one of the suspects took the man's wallet with $300 inside, while another sprayed the victim in the eyes with an unknown substance, police said.
Later that same day, the suspects — one of them wearing a vest that said "police" on it — used a flashlight to pull over a taxi driver on 27th Street near 40th Avenue in Long Island City.
The men attempted to search the car, but fled without taking anything after a customer in the cab questioned whether they were really police officers, according to the NYPD.
An hour later, the men pulled over another taxi on Crescent Street near 44th Avenue and had the 44-year-old driver exit the vehicle. They again pretended to be police officers, stealing the man's wallet and spraying him in the face with a substance before fleeing, police said.
Three similar incidents took place in different parts of Queens on Sept. 9, 16 and 24, according to the NYPD.
Police got their break on Sunday shortly after midnight, when a livery cab driver was robbed of cash and his cell phone on 35th Avenue and Crescent Street by three men wearing vests and 2-way radios, telling the victim they were from the Taxi and Limousine Commission.
A description of the men and their white van was broadcast over police radios, according to the NYPD.
A pair of officers from the 114th Precinct then spotted Torres walking into the subway station at 41 Avenue and 21 Street, recognizing him from an image on a "wanted" poster, according to police.
Torres was taken into custody, and investigators soon identified Remache and Peralta as the two remaining suspects, police said.
Officials also executed a search warrant at Torres' home in Harlem and found a cache of electronics and other equipment, including 15 portable radios, nine scanners and nine handheld microphones, police said.
After interviewing the three men, police linked Peralta to the series of fake police radio broadcasts that officials had been investigating since spring.
Peralta is facing three counts each of robbery and criminal impersonation, four counts of making terroristic threats, seven counts each of reckless endangerment and obstructing governmental administration, five counts of making a false report and two counts of aggravated harassment, officials said.
The charges against Torres, whom police described as a "ham-radio enthusiast," include two counts of robbery, two counts of criminal impersonation, two counts of unlawful possession of radio devices and possession of burglar’s tools, police said.
Remache, who lives in Upper Manhattan, was charged with two counts of robbery and two counts of criminal impersonation, according to police.
Both Remache and Peralta have also been charged with arson and reckless endangerment for setting a car on fire in Woodside on Aug. 8, according to police.
Information on the suspects' defense attorneys was not immediately available Friday.