Updated 5:56 p.m.
BY ANGELA MATUA AND ROBERT POZARYCKI
A man responsible for a string of restaurant robberies across Queens in recent weeks and many more on Long Island dating back to February has been arrested in Nassau County, police announced on Wednesday.
NYPD Chief of Detectives Robert K. Boyce and Nassau County Police Commissioner Thomas Krumpter announced the arrest of Khalif House, 24, of Hempstead at the Nassau County Police Department headquarters in Mineola.
Newsday first reported the story of the suspect’s apprehension. The crook is believed to be responsible for a total of 27 capers across Queens, Nassau and Suffolk counties dating back to February. In each of the cases, he allegedly visited shops and restaurants, displayed a knife and removed cash from the register.
Nassau County Executive Edward P. Mangano said House may have been supporting a drug habit with the money he pocketed.
“It appears that the suspect had a drug habit, perhaps heroin, and that may be the motivation for these robberies,” Mangano said.
The arrest announcement came less than 24 hours after the bandit committed his most recent bid for bucks at a College Point variety store on Tuesday night at 9:50 p.m., officials said. About 20 minutes later, he robbed a Dunkin’ Donuts on Hillside Avenue in Little Neck.
Officers in Floral Park noticed a female passenger in a gray Honda Accord near the Dunkin’ Donuts, said Chief of Department for Nassau County Police Steven Skrynecki. They approached Valley Stream resident Lisette Beltre, 24, who police believe may have aided House in other robberies. She allegedly ducked into her car and began acting suspicious and asked her to come back to headquarters. Police would not say whether she will face charges.
Members of the 105th Precinct went on a manhunt once they saw House flee from the Dunkin’ Donuts but were not successful in catching him until the next morning, said Chief of Department for the NYPD Robert Boyce. They believe he broke into a home in Floral Park and slept there for the night.
At 10 a.m. on Wednesday morning, police received a 911 call from a Floral Park resident who described a male fitting House’s description. Police responded to that location and performed “quite an extensive manhunt” that included the Floral Park Police Department, NYPD, the Nassau County Police Department and U.S. Marshals, Skrynecki said.
House was apprehended in a parking lot near 8 South Tyson Ave. in Floral Park.
The NYPD investigation began in February, according to Boyce. The NYPD began collaborating with Nassau County Police the next month, after House began robbing convenience stores on Long Island beginning on March 1.
He usually stands in front of a location for 10 or 15 minutes and lights up a cigarette before he walks in, Boyce said. This act helped police identify him during his last heist.
After he robbed a Queens location on May 11, the NYPD contacted the Nassau County Police Department. House struck in Queens again on May 23, and detectives began to mine data from previous cases. They discovered that House was also responsible for two other robberies within the 105th Precinct in February.
Police said the crook has held up 10 businesses across Queens since February, stealing cash at knifepoint from the registers of Carvel ice cream shops, Dunkin’ Donuts locations and Subway restaurants. He struck 13 locations in Nassau County and four locations in Suffolk County.
Officials said House has a short rap sheet with minor offenses like resisting arrest; Beltry has no prior record. The FBI, which also collaborated on this case, said they are looking to press federal charges.
“The message is very simple to criminals,” said Police Commissioner Timothy Sini of the Suffolk County Police Department. “We have the finest law enforcement agencies in the world operating on all cylinders in the region and working together. This is not a good time to be committing crime in this region.”