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Police: Trio Stole Bronze Vases From L.I. Cemetery To Fund Heroin Habit

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FARMINGDALE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) – Three people have been arrested in connection with a spree of vase thefts from graves on Long Island.

Police nabbed the trio Thursday afternoon after they received a 911 call about a theft in progress at Pinelawn Cemetery.

As WCBS 880’s Sophia Hall reported, authorities said the three suspects are heroin addicts who pretended they were visiting grave sites at the cemetery.

Nicholas Giambalvo, 27, and Max Schneider, 24 – of Dix Hills; and Elizabeth Dono, 27 – of North Babylon, face grand larceny and other charges, police said.

“They’re not going to stand out during the day. It’s a cemetery, you’re supposed to be there, it’s just the way cemeteries are laid out. Miles of fence, it’s a big piece of property, it’s not going to really bring any attention to them if they’re standing by a grave site,” Suffolk County Police Sgt. Marco Giudice told Hall.

As TV 10/55 Long Island Bureau Chief Richard Rose reported Friday night, police showed off about 90 vases they recovered from the suspects, who were arrested in a dramatic fashion at the cemetery in Farmingdale.

“Yesterday, cemetery personnel noticed the suspect vehicle inside the cemetery. They called police officers to the scene. When police confronted the subjects, they fled the scene, taking down a gate in the cemetery,” Suffolk County police Detective Lt. Robert Edwards said.

Pinelawn Memorial Park President Justin Locke released a statement following the incidents.

“We will replace any unrecovered stolen vases at no cost to the families of the deceased,” the statement said.

Meanwhile, mourners visiting the cemetery called the thefts a sacrilege.

“Hopefully, you, they prosecute them to the full extent of the law,” said Myron Walls. “What can I say? You know, it’s a heinous crime.”

Police said they now want to know who was buying the vases.

“They’re not worried about taking these things in pristine condition,” Edwards said. “They just hack them and whack then and take them, and you have some sort of market. That’s what we’re trying to investigate, is where the market for these items are.”

When new, the vases can cost as much as $600. But one scrap metal dealer said they are usually worth less than $20 when melted down for cash.

And the manager of a local pawn shop said all transactions there are checked by police.

“There’s no way people would be able to come into a business like this and be able to get away with stuff like that that’s stolen,” said Joe DiGregorio of Major Pawn.

The three are responsible for stealing numerous bronze vases totaling $53,000 on Oct. 1 and 16 and Feb. 5 and 6, police said.

Giambalvo and Dono are also accused of stealing copper piping from a North Babylon home in December, police said.

All three were arraigned at First District Court in Central Islip on Friday.

Detectives ask anyone who may have witnessed the vase thefts or have any additional information to call the First Squad at 631-854-8152 or anonymously to Crime Stoppers at 1-800-220-TIPS.

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