Ninja Burglar behind more than 100 break-ins takes plea deal

AP News
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Posted: Apr 21, 2016 1:38 PM

NEW YORK (AP) — A man nicknamed the Ninja Burglar who confessed to committing more than 100 break-ins over a decade accepted a plea deal with authorities in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut on Thursday.

Robert Costanzo pleaded guilty in New York City to three counts of burglary, according to Staten Island District Attorney Michael McMahon. The statute of limitations had expired on many of the other cases.

He will receive 25 years in prison and five years of post-release supervision when he is sentenced on June 14, McMahon said.

Costanzo stole more than $4 million in cash and valuables like jewelry and designer handbags, often brazenly entering houses in wealthy areas at night while the residents were home, authorities said. Sometimes he took a ladder from a different home and then returned it after committing the burglary.

He admitted to more than 100 break-ins on Staten Island. Prosecutors said he had been linked to 160 in that borough, and was responsible for upward of 200 overall in the three states.

The burglaries, which occurred between 2005 and 2015, caused some neighborhoods to supplement police patrols with private security.

"This is not the case of Cary Grant in 'To Catch a Thief,'" McMahon said the day before the plea. "This man is a convicted rapist with convictions from 1992, and he is a registered sex offender."

Besides Staten Island, the universal plea agreement covers crimes in Connecticut; New Jersey; and Albany and Saratoga counties in New York, McMahon said.

The case took a major turn during an October 2014 law enforcement meeting when a detective from Saratoga Springs, in upstate New York, told New York City officers that her department was investigating a residential burglary pattern, and that Costanzo was the main suspect.

Investigators began conducting surveillance on him.

Costanzo was turned over to the New York Police Department after pleading guilty on Tuesday to robbery, kidnapping and burglary for a 2014 home invasion in Farmington, Connecticut. The 66-year-old resident was taken from her bed; struck; had a knife held to her neck; forced to open a safe holding $75,000 worth of jewelry; and left kneeling in a closet.

"His reign of terror is officially over," said the New York prosecutor.