2 NYC officers charged in $1 million perfume heist
(AP) Two New York City police officers helped carry out a $1 million perfume heist at a New Jersey warehouse last month, acting like bumbling amateurs by using their own IDs to rent trucks that later tied them to the crimes, according to a federal complaint filed Friday.
The two officers, Richard LeBlanca and Brian Checo, were among five suspects who made their initial appearances in federal court Friday. All five, including former NYPD officer Orlando Garcia, were ordered held without bail.
They are charged with conspiracy to commit armed robbery, punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
“If these allegations are true, it would be a shame that New York’s finest would be involved in conduct like this,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Chris Gramiccioni said.
The heist occurred Feb. 9 at the In Style USA Inc. warehouse in Carlstadt, in the shadow of Giants Stadium. The company is a distributor of high-end perfumes and uses the warehouse to store products that are sold in Manhattan. Prosecutors estimate about $1 million worth of perfume was taken in several trucks.
Carlstadt police seized two trucks at the scene that had been rented that day in Jersey City by LeBlanca and Checo, who showed the rental agent their New York state driver’s licenses, according to the complaint.
When told by the rental agent that the two couldn’t leave their cars – a red Ford Mustang and silver BMW – at the rental lot due to company rules, two other suspects drove to the warehouse in the cars while LeBlanca and Checo each drove a truck, the rental agent told authorities. Later, an eyewitness described the silver BMW fleeing the scene.
Three additional trucks were rented in Brooklyn and used in the heist but have not been recovered, Gramiccioni said.
According to the complaint, LeBlanca and Checo burst into the warehouse and yelled, “NYPD! Hands up!” while waving guns and displaying badges. Other coconspirators allegedly helped them tie up about 11 warehouse employees while a group of day laborers who had been recruited by the robbers began to load the trucks.
One of the robbers allegedly told the employees that they were performing a routine inspection of the storage facility on behalf of the NYPD. An unidentified suspect also forced the warehouse manager to turn over a surveillance camera unit plus about $4,000 in cash, according to the complaint.
LeBlanca, 25, and Checo, 24, both of New York, were arrested at their homes Friday. Also arrested were Garcia, 35, of New York; Gabriel Vargas and Luis Morales, both 31 and from Brooklyn. Anselmo Jimenes, 29, of Brooklyn, was arrested at the scene on Feb. 9 and is expected to appear in federal court Monday.
Brooklyn resident Alan Bannout, 29, and an eighth suspect identified in the complaint by the alias “Mike Smith,” are still at large.
Federal public defender Donald McCauley, who represented all five defendants at Friday’s hearing, did not comment afterward.
LeBlanca and Checo both have served with the NYPD since January 2006 and Garcia became an officer in July of that year and resigned in 2007, the department said. The NYPD did not comment on the arrests other than to say that LeBlanca and Checo have been suspended from duty without pay.